Friday, August 21, 2015

Everything but the kitchen sink (but only because it won't fit in the car)

There's a rumor going around that I require four pillows at night. That rumor is true.

I've spent the week packing for our annual lake trip. I feel so fortunate to have a friend who lets us use his cabin every year. The place is full of so many happy memories for us. Of course, the memories were a little quieter before the curlie girlie came along. P and I used to sit and read for hours, interrupted only by the occasional call of a loon on the lake. Now, we're interrupted every 5-10 seconds by someone who is bored even though she was specifically instructed to bring lots of things to do. No WIFI = first-world problem.

When we go to the lake, we basically bring everything we will need for the whole trip. The town nearest to the lake has a population of 731 people and no grocery store. There is a gas station, but you don't want to buy anything there if you don't have to, mostly because they hike up the prices for dumbass tourists who left shit at home when they definitely should have brought it. One year, Gideon broke out of his crate and ate our cookies while we were out on the lake. I went into town to replace the cookies with a bag of Chips Ahoy. I think the gas station was charging something like six bucks. For a bag of Chips Ahoy!

If there's one thing I've learned as a vegan, it's that you have to think ahead a little (if you want to eat, that is). That little gas station does not have vegan staples like tofu, nutritional yeast, etc. I can just imagine walking in there and asking for any of those items. They'd be talking about me all week. "Clara! Did you hear about the lady who came in here this morning asking for raw agave and chickpea flour? What on earth?" So, anyway, I've packed a little more than usual just so I can make some recipes and whatnot while I'm at the cabin. We also picked up a new air mattress at Costco. There is a pseudo waterbed (that's somehow too hard and too soft at the same time) in the cabin but my old-lady hips don't like it. So, we graciously let our friends use it when they join us for a few days each year. What can I say, we are givers!

My heart is a bit heavy this year because my instinctual feeling is that this will be Gideon's last year at the cabin. His back end simply is not working. The other day I watched him struggle to balance himself just to poop. I have some boots for him to wear on slippery surfaces, but eventually it becomes a matter of strength (which he no longer has) and not traction. I don't know if he specifically has degenerative myelopathy, which is pretty common in Boxers, or if the weakness is just a side effect of old age, but whatever it is, it sucks. I hate to see him struggle just to walk. I am officially entering "keep an eye on quality of life" for my old man. He's the goodest good boy who ever lived.

Here's hoping we can get all of this stuff packed up . . . and somehow still leave room for the dogs.

Giddy at the lake six years ago.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

If an authority figure is speaking in the forest, and there is no tween around to ignore it . . .

 . . . was that authority figure really speaking?

One thing I learned from spending the last week with my 11-year-old nephew: my kid is normal. All kids are crappy listeners. My husband and I also got a brief taste of what it's like to say, "Why aren't your teeth brushed???" to two kids instead of just one.

My nephew is slightly more likely to comply than my daughter. When I told both of them, "Put down your iPads and get your pajamas on," he actually put his iPad down. What this tells me is that my sister has put the fear of death into him if he doesn't put his iPad down, and I need to know exactly how she has accomplished this. My kid ignores me until I'm foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog.

Another (apparently) common trait with kids: inability to get out of the car when you've arrived at your destination. My daughter does this to me almost daily. For example, we go to church every Sunday (unless we're out of town or something). The church service starts at the same time every Sunday. We leave our house at the same time and take the same route to get there. Every week. So how is it that when we arrive at church, she won't get out of the bleeping car? She acts like she has no earthly idea where we are or why we are there. It's like she's been beamed there without her knowledge or consent, a la Star Trek. So, I spend a lot of time standing in parking lots behind my own car while I wait for her to get her act together and, for the love of God, EXIT THE VEHICLE.

The other day, I dropped the cousins off at the theater camp they attended last week. I ended up walking into the building and signing them in without the two knuckleheads even being with me. They were still rummaging around in the back seat and arguing over who had received better stuff in the lunches I had packed for them. When we took my nephew to the airport today, P and I stood in the parking garage (behind the car) while the tweens took their sweet time. We assumed that they were getting their stuff together, since each one had a backpack containing an iPad and other odds and ends. They looked dazed and confused when they finally emerged from the back seat. I thought maybe the planes rumbling overhead would have provided some clues about our destination, but what do I know?

We checked my nephew in at the Southwest ticket counter and then headed towards security. Just then he exclaimed, "Wait! I don't have my iPad!" He stopped and started frantically searching his backpack. What the what? His uncle ran back out to the car to find it.  I know my husband was dying to ask, "Then what were you doing all that time?" but thought better of it.

The visit was a success, though, I think. I adore my nephew. He really is a sweetheart. On Friday night, I left work early so I could take the kids somewhere fun. However, a massive storm rolled in so my plans to go to the park had to be tossed out. Instead, I took them to an indoor waterpark. I swam, too. At one point I bought them some snacks from the concession stand. After my nephew thanked me for the snacks, the cashier guy said, "That's the first time all day I've heard a kid thank a parent." We took the kids to the state fair yesterday and at times my nephew held my hand as we made our way through the thick crowds. It was about 900 degrees yesterday and any kind of physical contact seemed like a bad idea, but I was so touched that he wanted to hold my hand that I couldn't bear not to hold his.

As for the cousins, they got along famously, just like they always have. We stayed at a hotel after the fair last night. The room had two queen beds so we put the kids in one and we took the other one. They're still young and innocent, so it didn't seem inappropriate or anything like that. As you may recall from previous blog entries, my daughter is a kicker. As the kids sat in bed last night playing with their iPads, I walked over, lifted my leg, and stuck my heel in my nephew's spine. "Are you good with this? Because this is what you have to look forward to all night." He looked at me like I must be kidding. Ha ha! Just as we all were falling asleep last night, we noticed that our kid was on her cousin's side of the bed. He was clinging to the edge of the mattress for dear life. Then we heard her mumble, "Move over!"

We hope he'll come back next summer for more adventures. He said his favorite part of the visit was eating deep-fried Oreos at the state fair. The look on his face was priceless - if he could have dove head first into the bag, he would have. He has a peanut allergy and had a milk allergy for a long time, too. I think for most of his life he couldn't indulge in a lot of stuff. I remember when he was little and he was invited to a birthday party. The other kids had cake and he had some Smarties or something like that. Life is a little easier now. I was nervous about the peanut allergy but I managed to keep him alive for a whole week before returning him to his parents. Yay me! We were having so much fun during his visit that we acted like we were on vacation, too. I told him that if his mother asks him what he ate during the trip, he is supposed to say, "I don't remember." If she asks him what he drank, he is supposed to say, "Carrot juice."

I have four other nephews who haven't visited yet so, if you're reading this and you're one of my sisters, please disregard the comments about deep-fried Oreos. That's not even a thing. I made it up.

Arrival - cousins reunited

"Move over!"

The carrot juice looks very similar to a blue raspberry ICEE.

Good times at the fair.

"Hey, let's spend all my mom's money on this one game!"

Green-eyed cuties.

One for the family album.

Powdered sugar. Deep-fried Oreos. It's a whole new world.

The actors taking a bow at theater camp.

Roller coaster action at a local amusement park.

He also joined a lawless biker gang while he was here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


I'm on a mission. I've decided that the best way for me to lessen my "generalized anxiety" (a diagnosis I received a few years ago, which was kind of funny because before that I had spent a lot of time making fun of the commercials for "generalized anxiety" medication) is to remove some of the unnecessary stuff from my life. I decided to start with my email. I receive 50-100 emails a day. A day, mes amis. Up until now, I've been willing to slog through them and delete the junk every day, but the clutter has started to bother me more and more. So, I started unsubscribing from stuff left and right. For messages I actually want to receive (like Kohl's coupons, because who doesn't want those?), I set up various filters so that those emails are sent automatically to a Coupons folder. Do I need emails from the comedy club I haven't attended in nearly a decade? Probably not. Unsubscribe. It has been oddly cathartic to shrink my in-box so significantly. I didn't realize the sheer volume was causing me as much anxiety as it was.

The other change I have made is to resign (effective December 31st) from the board of directors for the Boxer Rescue for which I have volunteered for the past 15 years. That's a third of my life, so it's a long time when you think about it. I am hoping to stay on as a volunteer, limiting my involvement to fostering and working on the website (however, I am planning to train other volunteers on how to edit the website in case I get hit by a bus or something). The organization means a lot to me, so I'd like to remain involved in some way.

One minute, I feel like a weight has been lifted. The next minute, I feel a terrible sense of loss. Sometimes I feel like I might just sit down and have a good cry. Dog Rescue is my passion (and probably always will be), but I know it's time to step aside and let another (younger, more energetic, less crabby) volunteer take my place. I think I probably have the organizational skills to serve on the board but what I don't have is a thick enough skin. Ultimately, I think I just wasn't cut out for it. My dog skills are probably fine, but my people skills are . . . less fine. All of the volunteers are great and everyone has good intentions - make no mistake about that. I am sure that conflicts are to be expected (and are common in all rescues). It's just time for change.

I mentioned my resignation on Facebook the other day and was a bit taken aback by all the nice comments I received. I was also a little embarrassed, I must say. I truly do not want any recognition or accolades for the work I've done. I'm just one of many. I do hope that when I'm dead, people will remember me in a good way. I'd like to be remembered for helping lots of dogs. I sure don't think I'll be remembered for my stellar parenting skills. Ha!

I still remember many of my early foster dogs. My very first foster dog was named Daphne. She was
Me and Caesar.
such a sweet dog. Her original name was DOG. Like, Dee-oh-gee.  No lie. So, I renamed her. I remember that she was handed to me with a rope instead of a leash. The rope had duct tape wrapped around it. I remember Kenny, the sweet little white Boxer. He came out of a shelter and smelled awful. P and I drove him home with the windows down. My Lucy Annabel was still alive back in those days. She gave every new foster dog "the business" and then ruled their lives with an iron paw. I remember Kaya, the chronic runner. She continued to be a runner for the rest of her life, but her family worked hard to keep her safe. Then there was Hunter, who was a wild man. When I took him to his new home, he ran straight into the house and peed on their Christmas gifts. After that, we enacted a policy not to do adoptions so close to Christmas. I remember Jamie, who was in a shelter because her owner was in jail. The owner sent his brothers to steal Jamie from the shelter, so the shelter asked us to take her. She was adopted by a nice lady who has been one of my closest friends ever since.

Elsie was so traumatized that she would only eat Easy Cheese.
 So many wonderful dogs have passed through my front door over the past 15 years. People ask, "How can you let them go?" and yes, it can be hard. But I got into this rescue gig to create happy endings, not to keep a gazillion dogs for myself.  In 15 years, I have only adopted two: Gideon and Gretchen. While most of the endings have been happy ones, I also had to learn a lot of hard lessons along the way. I have had to euthanize aggressive dogs and terminally ill dogs. Placing dogs in new homes does get easier over time, but euthanasia does not (and probably shouldn't get any easier, when you think about the magnitude of that). I have learned a lot about deaf dogs, separation anxiety, and cancer (all of which are common in Boxers). I have learned a fair amount about canine behavior and training. I'm no expert, of course, but it's fascinating stuff.  Once you spend a lot of time with a lot of dogs, you get pretty good at reading them. The book that taught me the most was "The Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson. I feel like anyone who works with dogs should read that book. I've also spent a decent number of Saturdays in canine behavior seminars, listening to speakers like Patricia McConnell. These things are like heaven for dog nerds like me.

I also made some dumb mistakes over the years. I was bitten a couple of times. Dog bites are no fun, let me tell ya. (Just in case you actually thought they were fun, I felt like I should mention it.) I will never forget Arlo (AKA Arlo de Barlo). He was mostly a jerk (particularly with other dogs) but he liked me. He was goofy and had a good sense of humor. Here's an example of one of his quirks, though. If he could see his empty food bowl and another dog at the same time, he would attack that dog. I wasn't sure if he was adoptable, so I had him evaluated by a behaviorist. She deemed him a "yellow light" adoption. That's the tricky thing about rescue - what do do about the borderline dogs. You can't just go around euthanizing dogs because they've got some flaws. When my husband and I started the long legal process for adopting an infant, I knew Arlo needed to be moved to a new foster home. We had to deal with home inspections and social workers and all that jazz. We found a volunteer who could take him. I warned her not to take him to pet supply stores and stuff like that.  However, because Arlo was such a nice dog when it was just him and one other human, she decided that I must have been mistaken with my warnings. She took him to a pet supply store. A little girl ran up to Arlo and hugged him around the neck. He bit her. (Side note to parents: please don't allow your children to hug unfamiliar dogs). Anyway, to make a long story short, I had to have Arlo euthanized. On my birthday, no less. The parents of the little girl got tons of money from the rescue's insurance company. I still don't know what I could have done differently, but I definitely felt changed by that whole experience.

Then there were the ones that took forever to place. I had Kaiser for three years before he found his forever home. Fritz (AKA Fritty Cent) was with me for a year. There were some other long-timers, too. My friend Candi always encourages me never to lose hope that there is a home out there for every adoptable dog.

Evan, the distinguished deaf dude
I could go on and on about my rescue adventures, the friends I've made, the friends I've lost, the happy tears, the sad tears, the lessons learned, the feelings hurt, the amazing adopters (I particularly adore the ones who adopt senior dogs), the many laughs (I still chuckle when someone applies to adopt a dog and misspells their own occupation), and all the dogs who touched my heart. I find something to like about every foster dog. For the young, healthy ones, it's easy to see them off to a new home and wish them the best. It's the old ones and the sick ones that chisel little chunks out of my heart. I am still upset about Duncan and he's been gone for many months now. I truly wish that I did have a thicker skin. I feel like it would be a lot easier to get through this life if I didn't have to feel every little thing so deeply. The good things and the bad things.

So, what will I do with my extra free time? I am already pretty involved with my church but I may take on extra stuff if needed. I may foster for other organizations. I told my friend Anita that I'd foster a German Shepherd for her sometime. So, who knows! My daughter wants to get more involved in a local reptile club, so I may sign us up for that (I'm not sure if she is old enough to volunteer without me being with her).  I also want to spend as much time as I can with my Giddy Giddy Gum Drops. He is not doing well and I fear his days are numbered.

Anyway, I don't know what the future holds but I can't wait to find out. (I'm guessing there will usually be a dog in it, though.)

Giddy and Chloe

Lucy and two foster dogs

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer O'Fun Rolls On

First I have to tell you about my accidental encounter with hot yoga. There is a new studio that's very close to my house. Walking distance, in fact. I saw that they have a class at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday. I already have a yoga studio that I use, but I thought, what the heck? Plus, the first class is free. So, I signed up and headed over there on Saturday morning. I felt a wave of heat hit me as soon as I walked through the door. Crap. I guess I hadn't read the website very carefully. I find yoga to be challenging enough at regular temperatures - no need to bring heat into it. The classes I usually attend are kept at a "normal" temperature.

Since I was already there, I decided to give it a go. Since this is a new studio and the owner doesn't have a log of clients yet, I was the only person who showed up for this class. The studio itself is very nice. I saw the heaters attached to the walls (near the ceiling) on both sides of the room. I situated myself near the middle of the room in order to be as far away from the heaters as I could get. Two minutes into the class, I was sweating. She had me hold a plank for thirty seconds and I saw sweat dripping off my nose and onto the floor. Ew. Just ew.

I will say that my joints did feel a little more bendy with the heat. I guess that is the reason for the whole thing. I was sweating profusely, though. I swabbed my face with a towel when the opportunity presented itself. The instructor said something like, "Boy, you're sure not used to the heat!" but at the end she told me I did well because I hadn't stopped. She said that most people need to take a break the first time they do hot yoga.

After class, I got into my car and looked at myself in the mirror. Sweet Jesus! I looked like I'd been hit by a truck. A hot, sweaty truck. I had worn just the tiniest bit of mascara because I was headed to Weight Watchers after the class. My mascara had migrated all over the place. Pretty!

Will I go again? I don't know. Maybe. Now I know that I am physically capable of getting through a hot yoga class, so that's something. I know it won't be this weekend because we are headed to the state fair. Instead of detoxifying at hot yoga, I'll be toxifying by eating food on a stick and stuff.

My nephew is visiting from Virginia. A and I drove to the airport to pick him up on Sunday. She made a "welcome" sign for him and everything.  Then, on the way back home (a two-hour drive), I was basically a non-entity. Once those two get together, they are just two peas in a pod. They immediately whipped out their iPads and huddled together to discuss Minecraft stuff. The only reason I was there was because they needed a ride.

On the way home, we stopped at an amusement park so that the cousins could ride a few rides. As we were entering the park, a guy who was leaving gave us all of his tickets. Score! I rode one roller coaster with the kids and then sat down to read while they spun their guts out on various spinny things.

This week, the cousins are in a theater camp together (during the day while P and I are at work). They
will perform a play at the end of the week. My daughter went out for a title role while my nephew auditioned for the role of "nameless kid on skateboard." He is going to serve on the set crew, however. I think that is more up his alley anyway. Last night I took them to a jumpity-jump place, as A used to call it when she was younger. They had a ball and my kid won a 1,000 ticket jackpot.

We are having a fun week and I am so glad that my nephew could come for a visit. It's really hard having family spread out over 4+ states but we find a way to get together and stay close. I was a little nervous because my nephew has a serious peanut allergy (is there a less serious kind? probably not). Anyway, I was at the grocery store for an eternity on Friday so that I could read all the labels and then call/text my sister every time I was unsure of a product. I also packed up all of our peanut butter, snack nuts, etc. and hid them away. So far so good, though. I've got an epi-pen in my purse in case of emergency. The camp has one, too. I'd definitely rather get through the week without having to stab my nephew in the thigh with a syringe, though.

The other day my nephew said, "Aunt Claudia, I have to tell you one thing."

I responded, "What? That I'm the best aunt ever?"

After a slight pause: "Aunt Claudia, I have to tell you two things."

Funny kid. Must take after me.

Friday, August 7, 2015

A weird age, aye

My daughter has a crush on a boy who attends the same summer program that she attends. She started talking about him in the car one day. When she told me his name and described him, I reminded her that we've known this boy since he was two. His grandma used to bring him to our church sometimes. In fact, he attended my daughter's sixth birthday party - the reptile-themed one. Anyway, I guess she has rediscovered the poor kid and is all googly-eyed over him. I say "the poor kid" because apparently all the girls like him.

The other day, I picked her up from the camp program and the director pulled me aside. I could almost guess what he was going to tell me. "Some of the kids have been daring each other to do things," he said. "Your daughter was involved." He went on to explain how some kid had dared my daughter to kiss THE boy. So, my daughter took the dare and kissed him on his cheek. The director made it clear that he takes the whole thing very seriously and came down hard on the kids. He said that if it happened again, the kids would be kicked out of camp. His main concern was with the "daring" part. He worried that if a kid (like mine) would take a dare about something fairly innocent like a kiss on the cheek, what would happen if someone dared her to do something much worse?

I thanked him for letting me know, retrieved my daughter, and headed to the car. She was very sullen and very solemn. Whatever the director dude said, it must have had quite the impact. She had tears in her eyes before we even reached the car.  I told her we'd talk about it on the way home. She seemed particularly worried about what her dad would say.

Honestly, I wasn't nearly as mad as she apparently thought I'd be. I get a lot madder when she loses shit, which is often. I told her that I'm paying a lot of money for her to attend these fancy summer programs (she gets to choose a different camp program each week) and that I'd really prefer if she would just focus on having a good time and enjoying the program. I also told her that it's perfectly normal and natural for her to like this boy, but she needs to stop doing stuff that is likely to make him uncomfortable. "Leave the boy alone," I told her. "Also, you'd better be the world's best camper for the rest of the summer."

When we got home, I told my husband what had happened. He was not terribly concerned. I told him just to have a quick talk with her and to tell her not to do it again. It was all he could do to keep a straight face. We talked to her a bit about not taking dares. She said she didn't know how to say no. "Just say, 'I have better things to do with my time,'" I suggested.

I keep thinking that this really is a very strange age. She's 10, so she's not a little kid anymore. She's capable of taking on a lot more responsibility than she actually accepts. She's been bugging me for an Instagram account. I said no, which has led to daily mother-daughter clashes. She keeps asking what she can do to earn an Instagram account. I told her she needs to prove that she can handle responsibility. She asked for examples. I said, "Well, you could help with the dishes, get up on time, go to bed on time, brush your teeth voluntarily, pack your own lunch, help with the laundry . . . shall I go on?"

Her face bore an expression of pure devastation. "How long would I have to do all THAT?"

"Um, until you move out."

So then she started crying. I should add that we were on our way to her orthodontist at the time. Also, she was wearing face paint that she (or some other kid) had applied at camp. Maybe I should also add that she signed up for a set-building program this week so she had paint all over her clothes. I had made her wear old clothes because we knew the paint would be flying. So it was that I showed up at the orthodontist's office with a crying tween who was sporting black streaks from her cheek to her neck. She was not embarrassed in the slightest as we sat in the lobby. I decided to ignore her and tried to read a magazine. The lobby was packed. She perched next to me on a small couch and all I could hear was "sniffle sniffle . . . instragram . . . buy why not? sniffle sniffle blah blah blah instagram."

Finally, we got through her appointment and left. I was surprised that she wasn't embarrassed because it seems like every little thing I do embarrasses her in a colossal way. More than once I've heard, "Please don't ever do that in front of my friends."

In some ways, she is pretty darned sophisticated. She has a sharp sense of humor and makes me laugh all the time. She's very bright and very clever. We recently received some standardized test scores from the state and her language arts score was about as high as you can get (math was decent but not nearly as high). Her test scores are mostly unrelated to what I'm saying here - I just wanted to brag for a second.

I know we have a very long way to go with all of this tween/teen stuff. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as the saying goes. I do find it interesting to live with someone who hugs me and says, "I love you, Mommy!" one minute and then the next minute her head is spinning around and her bed is levitating. Your mother's in here, Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I'll see that she gets it. 

There are lots of loving, hugging moments and also a lot of eye rolling and foot stomping.  Oh, and don't forget the exasperating sighing. I hope I've got what it takes to weather this curly-haired storm.

Monday, August 3, 2015

She's Blue

My daughter has been bugging me all summer to dye her hair. She wanted blue hair. Not her whole head, of course - just a portion of it. I finally agreed to do it. I couldn't really think of any reason not to (well, other than the possibility that pouring chemicals on my child's skull is a bad idea), and it seemed harmless enough. She's expressing herself, ya'll! Plus, I'm hoping that when she's 13 and is screaming at me about how I'm ruining her life because I'm such a horrible mother, maybe she'll remember the time I did the thing she wanted. So, I bought a dye kit with the color she desired: blue. We decided to go for it on Sunday night.

First, I had to bleach the section of hair using the peroxide stuff that was provided. I have never done this before, so I wasn't sure of the best way to proceed. I pulled her hair back into a ponytail, leaving out the section in front that she wanted to dye. I then proceeded to wrap saran wrap around her head. I also got hopelessly entangled in it. I feel like I need to take a class in:
  • Folding fitting sheets
  • Tearing saran wrap off the roll without making it look like you gnawed it off with your teeth
  • Determining the appropriate punishment for a kid who keeps leaving lip gloss in her pockets on laundry day
They could call the class "Domestic Blunders" or something like that.  Anyway, once her head was
encased in plastic, I read the directions verrrrry carefully and applied the peroxide to the soon-to-be-blue section.  Then she sat around and watched her goofy tween shows while the peroxide did its thing. I wouldn't let her sit on the couch so she sat on the floor, which meant that the dogs kept coming over to her to ask, "WHY ARE YOU SITTING ON THE FLOOR!" and then licking her forehead.

When the timer dinged, we rinsed out the peroxide and washed her hair. The hair had to be dried before the next step. We never, ever blow-dry my daughter's curly hair. And for good reason, too. When I was done, she looked like Richard Simmons circa 1983, when his 'fro was at its glorious peak. Next, I had to cover her head again. This time, I tried aluminum foil. However, it didn't work as well as I'd hoped so I just ended up covering the foil with two or three miles of saran wrap. I slathered on the blue dye, as per the instructions, and then sent her back to the living room floor again - at which time the dogs' brains exploded.

45 minutes later, we rinsed out the blue dye in the shower. I had foolishly discarded the plastic gloves that came with the kit because I thought I was done with the dangerous stuff. As I started rinsing, poking my hands through the shower curtain, I noticed that there was blue everywhere. In the shower, on the floor . .. but mostly on my hands. Oh well. I'm still the best mom ever, right?

So, I went to work this morning with blue hands, but the kid has what she wanted and that makes me happy.