Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Middle School Orientation

This can't be right. My daughter starts middle school in September?  I am pretty sure that I just dropped this kid off at 4K the other day:

And now I have this:

Her dad and I took her to middle school orientation last night. In our district, middle school is 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I have been careful not to tell my daughter how much I hated middle school, because I want her to have a positive experience. It is going to be a HUGE change for her.  Here is the part that scares me the most:

She'll be in class a full hour and a half earlier than she is now. As I might have mentioned once or six thousand times, she is not a morning person. The three-minutes-between-classes thing scares me, too. I'm worried that by the end of the first year, I'll be able to wallpaper our living room in tardy slips.

As part of the orientation, all of the 5th graders and parents were ushered into the auditorium to get a rundown from one of the guidance counselors. She explained what classes the kids have to take and gave tips on being successful in middle school. Then, a panel of 8th graders answered questions. There were a lot of questions that I wouldn't have thought to ask. Can you chew gum? (Depends on the teacher)  Can you take a backpack to class? (No) Are hats allowed? (No) Why are there two cafeterias? (They each serve different stuff.) There is a lot to know.  My daughter seems more excited than worried at this point.

Then, we walked through the cafeteria where there were displays set up to advertise different extracurricular activities.  My kid is already signed up for Choir and is anxious to get involved in theater, too.  I noticed that she walked right past the display for the Math Club without even pausing.

I was happy to see some of the things the school has put in place to help incoming 6th graders get acclimated.  For example, at lunchtime, 6th graders only eat with other 6th graders. I would imagine that this will be less intimidating for them and, possibly, cut down on bullying.  It sounds like they generally keep the 6th graders together as much as possible.  Also, they are offering some summer programs.  There is a three-day session in August called Middle School Matters, where they give the kids a chance to practice opening their lockers, learning their way around the school, etc. I've signed the kid up for that. Also, they are offering some fun summer sessions with stuff like "Babysitting basics."  So, I signed her up for a couple classes. She wants to do a Minecraft class and a bread-baking class. I think that will give her another opportunity to be inside the school and get her bearings. The school itself is huge compared to the one she attends now.  When the tour guide brought us back to where we'd started, I actually had no earthly idea how we'd gotten there.

During the tour, the kid and her friend walked as far away from their parents as they could get. This might be because I had mentioned that her dad and I might get the urge to square-dance during the orientation. I didn't do anything too embarrassing . . . as far as I know.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to have a good cry over all of this growing-up business.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

None of this makes any sense

Last night I had a dream that I accidentally bought four sheep.  They were tiny, so . . . lambs, I guess?  I remember being relieved that they were petite enough to fit in dog crates. I didn't want my husband to know what I had done, so I put the lambs in the basement, each in a separate crate.  I lined them up next to the washer and dryer. My husband has not done his own laundry since the early 90s, so there was no chance he'd go down there and find them. I thought all of the lambs were girls and then I discovered that one of them was a boy. I was very worried about them making more lambs. In the dream, I was quite distraught.  You have no idea how relieved I was when I woke up to find I was sheepless.  So traumatic.

I guess this dream was better than the recurring dreams I have about being terminally ill.  Those are scary. I think my sub-conscious has some serious issues.

I'm sorry to say that my sheep dream is the most exciting thing I have to report. My days consist of working, doing laundry, signing homework logs, and chasing a puppy. The kid and I took Grover to class on Monday night. The instructor noted that Grover doesn't seem to know his name all that well. "Oh," I said. "Well, there is a slight possibility that he thinks his name is Goddammit."  We're going to work on the name recognition thing, though.  We also took him to puppy playtime last Saturday. The kid had a friend over for a sleepover, and I was not convinced that either one of them would be ready to go at 8:10 in the morning. Sure enough, I drove across town with a car full of dirty teeth and uncombed hair.

Puppy playtime is pure chaos, but Tina (the instructor, who is also a friend) keeps a close eye on the pups and watches their body language closely. Grover was repeatedly pinned by a slightly older female Boxer. I mean, she was just gunning for him. I took him to puppy playtime to build up his confidence (he is a bit shy), not for him to get his ass kicked. I felt kind of bad for her owners because their puppy needs the socialization just like mine does. The difference is that she's a bit bossy for that environment.  They ended up leaving early.  Grover did make some other friends, though.  He also climbed a little plastic obstacle that made him feel like he was hot shit after that.

Last weekend was just beautiful, weather-wise. After puppy playtime we stopped at a bakery to order the kid's birthday cake. She's just two weeks from the big 1-1. Inconceivable!  Later in the afternoon, I took the girls to a park.  I figured they'd play there all afternoon but after 15 minutes they announced that the were "too hot" and wanted to leave. It was all of 65 degrees outside.  Kids these days, I tell you.

Speaking of hot, I am really looking forward to summer. My middle sister and my nieces are visiting next month. Blondie is touring colleges. I am hoping she will choose a school near me, though I confess it does seem unlikely. In June, after school lets out, the kid is flying out to DC to hang out with her aunt and the gang. Her dad and I will follow along a week later. I can't say that we are too sad about the fact that she won't be joining us on the 16-hour drive. (If she can manage to complain that a perfect spring day is "too hot," you don't even want to hear the litany of complaints she can dole out on a long car trip.) We are going to take a little detour to Pittsburgh this year. Neither of us have ever been there. Mr. M wants to go to some geek shop that's supposed to be a mecca for his people. I will find something to do while he is in worship. We're also thinking of another side trip to Harper's Ferry. We haven't been there in a while. We're planning to spend four days at my sister's house and then four days at the beach where my dad and stepmom live. Then, of course, we have the excruciatingly long drive back home. I'll try not to think about that part right now, though.  In August, we plan to do the cabin-by-the-lake thing as usual.

As for the kid, we're not putting her in daycare this summer. She is much too cool for such things. I do have her signed up for some week-long camps, though. The local humane society has one. She also has choir camp and Girl Scout camp (with a friend of hers - that one's an overnight camp). I'm not sure why I'm blathering on about our summer plans, but there they are.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my puppy is very quiet and nothing good ever comes out of a quiet puppy.

This my free spirited girl, dancing at a drum circle at our church.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

I'm looking over a four-leaf Grover . . .

That's just one of the nonsensical songs I sing to my puppy. I also sing, "He's a goofy Grover, yeah!" which will only make sense to you if you have wasted invested some portion of your life watching Spongebob Squarepants. 

My favorite part was when she couldn't pry
the treat out of the pocket in her skinny jeans.
Grover had his first obedience class on Monday night. This initial class is mostly about socialization with some beginning obedience stuff added, too.  The instructor is a friend of mine. There were a lot of pups there for the first class - including another Boxer. I'd just had a cortisone shot in my foot (yes, the plantar fasciitis saga continues), so I decided to let A do the training, at least for this class. My doctor wants me to take it easy for two weeks, which feels just about impossible. Anywho . . . the kid was beyond excited to get onto the training floor and get started, but there was a question and answer period first.  I can tell that I've been doing dog stuff for too long when I heard some of the questions that the new puppy owners were asking Tina. One guy's pup is just six weeks old and it sounds like he's had her for a bit already. I just felt like screaming, "No! You've made a terrible mistake!" A six-week-old puppy has not had enough time with her litter mates and is very likely to have issues with bite inhibition. I give the family credit for coming to class, though - for that matter, everyone who takes a dog to classes gets a thumbs-up from me. After 16 years of rescue work, many times I have seen situations that could easily have been avoided with some proper training.  Another doggie dad talked about how his puppy wasn't using the puppy pads they bought for him.  Tina wisely pointed out that this can be confusing for a pup, since the ultimate goal is to get the dog to pee/poop outside. I was right with her on that one - I can't think of any circumstance under which it would be a good idea to encourage a dog to do that stuff inside the house.  Grover is getting better, slowly but surely. Nighttime is a challenge because my daughter is hell-bent on sleeping with the puppy. However, her version of sleeping is very similar to a coma. So, she doesn't hear him get up. He poops in her bedroom and she still doesn't wake up.  I'm hoping this situation will resolve on its own eventually.

Last weekend, my daughter was out of town. She was on a mini tour with the choir. P had to work Saturday night.  So, I decided I would have a slumber party in the living room with the dogs.  I inflated an air mattress and wedged it between both couches. Then the dogs and I grabbed some blankets and some wine and settled in to watch Saturday Night Live. Well, I didn't give the dogs any wine because they are jerks when they drink. Anyway, let me just say that it was the worst night of sleep I've had since I had that stomach flu in February. The dogs milled about aimlessly (whining sporadically because the change in routine was apparently just too much for them), the puppy had to poop in the middle of the night, and the air mattress started to deflate in the wee hours of the morning.  Anyway, the kid is mooooore than welcome to keep sleeping with the puppy.

In other news, our foster dog is getting adopted on Friday. I am so happy for him! He's been with us for about three months and is very attached to me, but I'm sure he'll adjust. The adopter has had many German Shepherds, so she is very familiar with the breed (much more so than I am, I'm sure). He is still blowing his coat so I won't miss that.  He doesn't like to be brushed so when I walk by, I often just grab a few tufts that are jutting out (otherwise, I just have to pick them up off the floor once they are ejected).  Agent turns and gently mouths my hand as if to say, "I could break all of your fingers right now, but I choose not to . . . because you're my girlfriend."

I will take in another foster dog at some point, but first I need to take a couple weeks to focus on Sir Poops-a-Lot. He and I need to have some heart-to-heart chats about how the back yard needs his turds more than the carpet does.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Big Steps

I didn't write about Easter because I was too busy cleaning up puppy poop. It seems like it should be scientifically impossible for a small creature to have significantly more output than input, but that does seem to be the case. Direct quote from my husband: "All I do is clean up poop and pee now."  Also: "I can't believe we paid money to go through this."

Puppies do have a way of turning one's life upside down.  It's been 18 years since we had a puppy of our own. We have fostered puppies over the years, of course.  They sure wore out their welcome, cute though they were. Most weren't quite as young as Grover is, though. Plus, it's different when it's your own, I think.

We are trying to get into a routine.  When I get up in the morning, my first job is to let the little hellion outside. I take him out into the backyard (which is fenced) and carry him to the far end of the yard. He races back to the door as fast as his little legs will carry him. After all, he needs to get back inside so he can poop! I usually repeat this three or four times before giving up and letting him back inside. At this point, it's more of an accident or coincidence if he does happen to pee or poop outside. When he does, I clap happily and yell, "GOOD BOY, GROVER! GOOD BOY GOES POTTY OUTSIDE!"  He looks at me as if to say, "You know you're in your pajamas, right?"

After that, I have to get breakfast for all three dogs (each of whom is on a different food), somehow get my own breakfast while the puppy is trying to swing from the German Shepherd's tail, drag throw rugs around, gnaw on the dining room chairs, etc. Sometimes I put Grover in his crate for a moment so that I can get something done. He has little patience for that kind of imprisonment.

When my daughter and husband get up, I hand him off to one of them.  My daughter has been sleeping with the puppy at night.  We crate our dogs during the day when we are not home, but not at night. So, we were hesitant to crate Grover at night when he will never be in a crate overnight. Plus, I think we just don't want to hear him screaming all night. Anyway, she has been sleeping on the floor.  I think sometimes she lets him out at night and sometimes not. When I went into her room to get him yesterday morning, there was a turd just a few feet from my child's head. When I say she is a heavy sleeper, I am not kidding around.

I will say that the kid has been pretty helpful in general, at least as far as the puppy goes. I fear that the novelty will wear off, though I hope it doesn't.  Another sign of growth and maturity:  she decided to stop going to daycare and wants to bike to school instead. I haven't fully given up her spot at daycare, just in case, but so far it is going pretty well. I printed a checklist for her that lists stuff she needs to do before she leaves (like locking doors and such) and stuff she needs to do when she gets home (like doing homework before playing Minecraft). It takes her about ten minutes to bike to school. We bought her a lock for her bike, then made her practice locking/unlocking it and also locking/unlocking the front door.

So yeah, my baby is growing up. For Easter this year, she didn't get a lot of candy in her basket. She got tween-y stuff like lip gloss and flip-flops. The Easter Bunny (AKA moi) also bought her a maxi dress she'd been eyeing at Kohl's. I asked her if she wanted to hunt for eggs and she said she did. You have never seen a more half-hearted Easter egg hunt in your whole life. She found a few (we use plastic ones with candy in them) and then announced that she'd found them all.  I scanned the house and saw multiple eggs almost right at eye-level. "Goober, did you even bother to look?"  I'm sort of thinking we might skip it next year. The thrill is gone, I guess. I let her dye eggs, too, even though she doesn't like eggs and I don't eat eggs at all. I give her fewer eggs every year until I assume that little tradition will peter out, too. I'll make sure she gets an Easter basket every year until she's married or whatever, though.

On Easter Sunday, we went to church and then went out for brunch. We stopped going to those fancy Easter brunches that charge $18.99 a person. We started realizing that we were paying all that money for about $.50 of food. When you don't eat meat, it's hard to get your money's worth at those things.  So, we just went to a regular diner and had brunch. I smuggled in my own butter (Earth Balance) because I'm cool like that. That way I could have toast like a normal person.

That was our Easter this year.  We spent the rest of the day chasing the puppy.  Watch for a gazillion more blog posts with the general theme of "What were we thinking?"

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Excuse me, would you like to see 749 photos of my new puppy? (748 of which are blurry because he doesn't stop moving)

We picked up our new Boxer puppy yesterday. I named him Grover, mostly after the Muppet. We drove a couple hours to get him and had to get up fairly early. We needed to get back to town in time for the kid to attend a friend's birthday party. I drove there and my husband drove back. My daughter and I sat in the backseat with the new addition. We'd brought along some towels and whatnot, plus some cleaning supplies in case anyone pooped in the car on the way home. The kid was so excited. She didn't look at her iPad for the rest of the day, which is probably some kind of record for her. She also slept on the floor with him last night and even let him outside in the middle of the night. I'm sure the novelty will wear off soon, but I like sleep and if she wants to get up with him, I am happy to let her. When we got him home yesterday, I gave him a bath in the kitchen sink. Later, he walked through his own poop but hey, he was clean for a minute or two there.

Our other Boxer, Gretchen, is adjusting pretty well.  Older dogs usually give puppies a "puppy pass" and do not correct unsportsmanlike conduct until the pup is a bit more mature. Our foster dog, Agent (a German Shepherd), on the other hand, is afraid of the puppy. He is hiding under my desk as I type this. We are mostly keeping the puppy away from him and are hoping that he will adjust soon. I guess I can't blame the fella for not wanting a puppy chewing on his fluffy tail. 

Life will be a whirlwind for a while, I guess.  This morning I'd cleaned up two piles o'poo and one puddle o'pee before 7 a.m. Grover played tug-of-war with my pajama pants (while I was wearing them) and bit P in the Achilles tendon. Toys are strewn everywhere. Chaos is the new normal. Once again I am reminded of why puppies are so cute - it's the only way anyone lets them live to see their first birthday.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Old friends, new friends

I woke up with a lump in my throat this morning.  You know how sometimes you feel like you have the same dream for hours even though you know it probably only lasted a few seconds? I felt like I dreamed about Giddy all night. In the dream, he came back to see me. However, it seemed like no one else could see him but me.  My mom was the only other person who could see him. Everyone else just looked at me like they felt sorry for me. In the dream, he stood in my living room and I hugged him. I held his grey face in my hands. I could feel his ribs under my fingers (he was always a skinny dog).  And then I woke up.

I miss that dog so much. He's been gone for 2 1/2 months but the pain is still so sharp. I will always miss him, just like I will always miss my other furry companions who have crossed over. My current foster dog, a German Shepherd, reminds me of my Karl Lee in so many ways. Agent is currently "blowing his coat."  What does this mean?  Well, he's ejecting his undercoat (German Shepherds are double-coated).  It comes out in big tufts. I keep finding pieces of him everywhere (he assures me that the process will be done soon).  Karl used to do this, too, though his fur wasn't as thick as Agent's. Agent is not a fan of brushing, unfortunately. You'd think he'd like the attention, particularly since he's always stuck to me like glue an overly-attentive boyfriend.

As for Gretchen, she's 9 now. The white hairs on her ears have started to form little unions. She now has a white streak down each ear. She's still sassy (she's impossible to walk because she threatens to kick the ass of every dog in our neighborhood), but I think she's slowing down a bit. She snoozes more than she used to.  However, her naps are about to become less plentiful and less lengthy because . . . our new puppy will arrive soon. I've been telling her, "Soon you'll have a little pup swinging from your collar!" She seems pretty psyched about it.

I said I would never get another puppy. Never say never, I guess.  My daughter is beside herself with excitement. She submitted a list of possible names for the puppy. I had already chosen the name Grover (as in, Grover from Sesame Street). Her list included names like . . .  Cop. And Oreo. Captain was on the list, I think.

"Thanks for the list of names, Sweetie. Why don't you keep thinking about it?"

I told my co-worker, Lisa, about this exchange and she responded, "So, you want her to think about it until she comes up with the name Grover?"

Yeah, basically.

The puppy is coming. Pray for us. (Well, I'm a UU and we don't really pray, so maybe you can meditate for us or something.)

Giddy, who was and always will be, the Goodest Good Boy in the Whole Wide World

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mama Bear

My daughter and I volunteered at a pet expo yesterday. We had signed up to help out at the German Shepherd rescue's booth. The plan was to stay until the end of the expo and then help load up all the gear. That morning, before church, my daughter saw that I was wearing a logo shirt for the rescue and asked if she could get one, too. I tried to put her off and said, "Yeah, eventually" or something along those lines. But, she was insistent. So, I contacted one of the other volunteers and she said I could pick one up at her home and then just pay for it later. She was already at the expo but her husband was at home. After church, my daughter and I drove over to pick it up. The drive was out of my way, but she had her red shirt. Mission accomplished. 

Now, I need to back up for a moment. My kid loves all animals, but she particularly adores reptiles. We have a local reptile club that sets up education tents at many events in our area. My daughter has been hanging around them at their events for so long that most of the volunteers recognize her and fully trust her to hold snakes and such. A few months ago, I decided to see what it would take for her to volunteer in a more official capacity. I visited their website and learned that since it's a club, you have to have a membership to join. I also learned that volunteers are obligated to buy one of the club's green tee shirts to be worn when volunteering. I filled out the form and sent in $20 for a family membership. Since my daughter is obviously a minor, I would need to be with her at any volunteer events. No problem. I am neither afraid of nor overly interested in reptiles, but as a mom, I do what it takes to help my kid do her thing. 

After a couple of months, it occurred to me that I hadn't really heard from the club since we'd joined. The website referenced a newsletter that volunteers evidently receive (but which we have not received). Apparently the newsletter lists events and such. Yesterday morning, I sent an email to the lady who runs the club. I asked about volunteer opportunities. She said we should just check the website and/or Facebook and just show up. I thanked her for the information, made a mental note to start checking for such events, and mentioned that my daughter and I were signed up to volunteer for Shepherd rescue that day.

The kid and I arrived at the pet expo at around 12:30 and found the rescue's booth. Within five minutes, she spotted the reptile club's booth and was off like a shot. She came back about 15 minutes later and put on a fleece jacket she had been wearing earlier. It became clear to me that she wanted to cover up her Shepherd rescue shirt to fit in better with the reptile people. I didn't really say anything because I have learned to pick my battles.

About a half hour later, traffic through the Shepherd rescue booth was light so I decided to walk around and check out some of the other booths. I was pondering the merits of some Dog is Good tee shirts when my daughter found me. She put her head down and pushed the crown of her head against the side of my rib cage. I could tell that something was very wrong. I got her to look up at me and I could see that she was fighting not to cry.

"A girl told me I couldn't be there," she said. "She said that I'm not 15 and I don't have the tee shirt and I can't go behind the table."

I gave her a hug and felt my inner Mama Bear kick in. "Don't worry," I said.  I started to walk towards the reptile club's booth.

"Mom! You don't have to say anything!" I knew she was worried that I would beat up a teenager and make things much, much worse.

"It's okay, Sweetie, I'm going to talk to the man who runs it, okay?" I found the gentleman who I have seen at all of the events.  It was his wife who had responded to my email earlier. I've talked with both of them many times and they are very nice people.

"My daughter has been coming to your events since she was little," I started. "She has been desperate to volunteer for you guys for as long as she can remember. We are members - I sent in the form and paid the fee. I know we need to buy the shirt but I don't want anyone kicking my daughter out of here."

He asked me who had kicked my kid out and A pointed at a blue-haired teenaged girl.  He shrugged and said not to worry about what other volunteers say. He told me that his wife would be back later and that we could talk to her about getting a tee shirt.  I thanked him and then walked with my daughter back to the Shepherd booth. I could tell that she was still really upset so we stopped mid-way so that I could give her a hug and so that she could work out the tears that were hanging out behind her eyes.  We made a detour to a sign-maker booth.  They had metal signs with vinyl lettering - all made to order on the spot. So, I dropped $23 just to cheer up my kid.  She now has a sign with her name on it and some musical notes. She wanted it for her bedroom door.

A little while later, we were back in the Shepherd rescue booth. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a volunteer from the reptile club come over and retrieve my daughter, taking her back to that booth with her.  I was so relieved. Later, I walked over there and gave them some money for a tee shirt. One of the volunteers happened to have a youth tee on hand.  The lady was back by then and seemed fine with my daughter being there.

I had one more talk with my daughter after that. I mentioned that maybe the teenager who was mean to her was having a bad day. Or was just being a teenager. Or whatever. I also reminded her that since she is a very young volunteer, she needs to prove that she is mature enough to be there. She needs to be someone who helps, not someone who requires supervision and makes life harder for the reptile club's volunteers. She spent the rest of the afternoon in their booth and was positively giddy about having that green tee shirt so that she could be official. Ultimately, I think she will be an excellent volunteer for the reptile folks because truly, my kid is great with people. They won't find a better ambassador for all things scaly.

In case you are not keeping track . . . yesterday, I bought my kid: a Shepherd Rescue shirt, a Reptile Club shirt, a personalized sign, and an order of fries. Mama Bear is also Sucker Bear.