Getting out of town is always an adventure, isn’t it? All the best-laid plans…

After hearing all the horror stories about getting through Heathrow, I was getting so anxious about the trip to London that I figured I’d get to the airport 3 hours early. Smart and cautious, right? Or ridiculous and paranoid. Either way…But I ended up adding so much to my list of things to do that I didn’t even start packing until about an hour before I needed to be at the airport. And what led up to that last-minute, body temperature-raising dash to the finish?


On Friday, it was all about running errands and getting a spray tan. I know English people are used to pasty people, but the shade of neon white happening on my legs was beyond what is acceptable to sunless Brits. But then as I was home using a turkey baster to suck up frog poo off the pink-pebbled bottom of an aquarium, I realized that I need to do something about the frogs.

At Christmas, I always host a party for my friends and our kids where gifts are exchanged and fun is had by all. This past Christmas, a Friend Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken Again walked in all laughing and knee-slapping about how all us moms were going to hate her when we saw what she got our kids. But how back could it be, really……It was bad. Really.

She brought in a huge cardboard box filled with mini aquariums, each containing a pair of African dwarf frogs and a stick of bamboo. Apparently, these were little self-contained, self-cleaning eco-systems, No Name explained. And their maintenance is so low, they only require two dots of food every couple weeks. Seriously? That didn’t sound right. But as our kids were squealing with delight at their new pets, the moms were seething. One was quick enough to come up with some lame excuse that her husband’s main gift to their kids for Christmas was a set of these damned frogs, so she refused to accept them for fear his heart would break. Good one, Dianthe! Another was already plotting in her head about how she was going to get home and release them in her yard, explaining to her weeping and wailing children that they were actually doing a good thing by releasing them to live with their other froggie friends when she was actually releasing them to their deaths. Those frogs never stood a chance….But there I was, listening to Emma Kelly excitedly naming these things “Austin and Ally” and realizing that I’d just became a frog owner. And yes, I really did hate the woman who just did this to me. And as No Name headed out the door, she reminded me that the frogs had just been fed, so I could wait a good week or so before they had to be fed again.

About 5 days later, another mom who decided to give these frogs a fighting chance called and asked me if I’d read the brochure that came with these things. Nope! I just took No Name’s word for it that I had another couple days to go before I had to feed Austin and Ally. And then she informed me that the frogs don’t get fed two pellets every two weeks. They get two pellets each twice a week. So basically, Austin and Ally were starving to death. Oh, the GUILT!!! So I called No Name and told her that she’d made a pretty big mistake on the instructions and she let me know that one of her frogs had already ascended to that great big pond in the sky.

So after reading the brochure, I realized that other than feeding them on this new schedule, I’d only have to change the water when it evaporated down half an inch. Self-contained eco-system, remember?  So about six months later, the water had dropped a little so I put some more of that in there. And then I noticed the bamboo had started to rot, so I figured I’d better take that out. Did I need more bamboo? That wasn’t covered in the brochure. So I went to PetSmart.

The sales woman let me know in the nicest way possible that I was the worst frog owner in the history of frog ownership. These frogs were swimming in their own filth. And she said they don’t feed their African dwarf frogs twice a week, they feed them EVERY DAY!! Again…the GUILT!!!! So I bought a fancy little aquarium that quadrupled their living space, put in another live plant for them to nibble on, got a filter to make sure they’d be swimming in clean water and vowed to feed them daily. And then I went home and set them up in their new arrangement, freaking out the entire time that the shock of swimming in urine- and poo-free water would actually kill them. But they survived the transfer. And then I plugged in the filter.

That thing sucked up Austin — or was it Ally? — and threw him back down to the pink pellets below. I couldn’t unplug it fast enough. So what was my other option?? I couldn’t let them swim in filth, but I couldn’t let them live a life of endless body slams! The lovely lady at PetSmart recommended a turkey baster. Yes, a turkey baster. So every day, I was poking around with a turkey baster, sucking up as much filth as I possibly could and emptying it into the sink. But Austin and Ally seemed so happy. They started getting fatter. They were playing. They were so freaking cute. But no matter how much I tried, the turkey baster couldn’t keep up with the poo. And algae was forming on this little hut I got for them to live in. Was I hurting them or helping them? And how much longer could this go on? Who was going to suck up their poop for a week while I was off in London??? And Emma Kelly had long since lost interest in these things. I had to do something.

So I went back to PetSmart. I found the sweetest salesman I could find and asked him if there was any way possible for them to take Austin and Ally and perhaps let them live in bliss in one of their aquariums until they could be adopted into a new, loving, way-more-suitable home. He said no. It was against PetSmart policy. But then he looked at me and said the sweetest words ever uttered to me by a man, “I’ll take them for you.” WHAT???? He offered to take Austin and Ally home and raise them as his own! He didn’t want any money. He didn’t want ANYTHING! He just wanted to help. How could I ever thank him enough?! So we made arrangements to meet back in the parking lot at noon the next day for the big exchange.

I was walking on air Friday night as I headed into Dianthe’s birthday party! I know I should’ve been home doing laundry and packing, but celebrating Dianthe’s birthday took precedence. And I was about to have freedom from frogs! I had so much to celebrate!! I got home entirely too late and made that stupid, unkeepable promise I always make to myself to get up before the crack of dawn and take care of business. So dawn cracked and then I got up, and the race was on.

Fast forward through going to my parents to teach them how to do Facetime and the frog exchange to me scrambling to the airport, rushing in 2 and a half hours before my international flight, heart racing and hands trembling ever-so-slightly because I was afraid that the precious half hour I’d lost would end up biting me in the butt. I checked in at the ticket counter, went through security and was sitting in the TGIFriday’s across from my departing gate within 15 minutes.

And — just my luck — when I finally get on the plane, I’m seated next to a man who looks just like a bearded Mark Ruffalo! I swooned. Could this be fate?? I was going to have nine hours to convince this man that we were about to find love in a hopeless place — coach seating. But then I realized that I wasn’t wearing a stitch of makeup but I was wearing an outfit that fell somewhere between the lines of workout wear and pajamas. And then I also realized that I was reeking of panic funk from freaking out about getting to the airport on time, so I decided to just chalk this one up as a loss. Plus, there was that shiny gold band on the third finger of his left hand and all that talk about “happily married for 11 years with three kids.”

But we made it to England and I’ve spent the day trying to stay awake while searching for food and navigating subway systems. And now it’s after midnight and I’m going to try to do a little Facetime with my precious angel back home and just hope she doesn’t ask me about the frogs.