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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Just look what you've done to Good King Wenceslas

I attended my first 5th grade band concert last night. My enthusiasm was a bit low because my daughter had practiced for a grand total of zero minutes in preparation for the concert. Back in September, she was totally gung-ho about the clarinet.  She could not wait for me to pick it up from the music shop. She could not wait to play the thing. That lasted all of five minutes. Since then, it's all she can do to remember to take it to school on Fridays, when the band teacher comes to her school to work with the kids. All I know is that the music shop is yanking 30-something dollars out of my bank account every month. My husband did not want our daughter to take band because she's already in a local choir, which is a pretty significant time/money investment as it is. I overrode his concerns because I felt like it would be good for the kid to learn to read music.  I still think that was a good plan. She has learned to read music, at least to some extent.

Yesterday morning, she frantically handed me a permission slip that needed to be signed in order for her to participate in the concert. "Um, how long have you had this?" I asked. I translated her facial expression as "many weeks." 

The band concert included students from about five different schools. It was basically two concerts: the orchestra for about 40 minutes and then the band for about the same amount of time. Mostly the same songs for both. I sat with a friend whose daughter plays the violin. The orchestra played Hot Cross Buns, Jingle Bells, and a bunch of other short tunes. It was weird hearing Christmas carols in March, but the kids had been learning them for a while so I guess it made sense. Honestly, the orchestra was better than I would have expected. I assume that learning a bow instrument must be fairly challenging.  I'd sure have no idea how to do it. Anyone who's heard me powering through new hymns at church knows that I do not know how to read music.

Next up was the band. My daughter took her place on stage and I really couldn't see her after that. She was in a sea of clarinet players and plus, she's short.  They played many of the same tunes that the orchestra kids had played. There was also a Spanish translator who repeated everything the band teacher said, which was pretty cool. I kind of giggled when she said "something something something something HOT CROSS BUNS."  In between each song, kids from various schools played brief solos. Some of them were good and a couple of them were pretty brutal. I gave the kids credit for getting up there, though. Because all of the kids are first-year band students, they only have a handful of songs in their repertoire. So, we heard Frere Jacques and Good King Wenceslas about a dozen times with the solos. Whatever the school district is paying the band/orchestra teacher, they should double it. If I thought I'd heard Good King Wenceslas a lot of times, he'd probably heard it ten times that number. Every time a kid played it, I sang in my head, "Deep and crisp and eeeeven!"

Then, at the very end of the concert, all my dreams came true. A boy named Viggo stood up and played the Star Wars theme flawlessly on his trumpet. I mean, he rocked it. I cheered for the kid.

After the concert, I looked for my clarinet player in the sea of fifth graders and parents jammed into the hallway.  I think my kid was in a panic because I couldn't find her, but that's what she gets for being so short. When I finally found her, I congratulated her on the concert. I also asked, "Hey, do you want a brother? I'm adopting Viggo."  She rolled her eyes and gave me her you're-not-funny look.  I hear "You're not funny!" about 80 times a day. She has also added this to her tween-speak lexicon: "I hate my life!"

So there you have it. My first band concert. By the time my daughter was born, I'd spent seven years trying to become a mom. I couldn't wait to get my first macaroni-glued-on-a-paper-plate art project. I couldn't wait to teach her to ride a bike. So many firsts. I joke about the band concert but even though my ear drums suffered a bit, it mostly felt like an honor.

Anyway, have fun singing Good King Wenceslas in your head for the rest of the day. "Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the feast of Steeeeephen!"

Monday, March 14, 2016

Rough Week

I had a bad, bad week last week. It was one of those weeks that changes your definition of "bad week."  I was over-scheduled at work, had an angry client on my hands, and couldn't seem to get anything done. I briefly contemplated the merits of having a good cry in my cubicle, but I think that sort of thing is frowned upon. I don't have a vacation until June, so I don't even have a "look forward to" sort of thing on the horizon. The only good news of late is that the weather has warmed up a bit. I've been walking the dogs more, although of course extra walking leaves me in agony with the &%$@ing Plantar Fasciitis. I'm thinking of looking into a double foot transplant. Oh, another bit of legitimately good news was that I found this at the grocery store:

Vegan ice cream!  Thank you, Ben & Jerry!  It's not something I plan to buy very often, because I can't really be trusted with chocolate in the house, but I can vouch for the goodness of this stuff.  I also made chocolate doughnuts over the weekend and took them to church on Sunday. Doughnuts are fairly labor-intensive, but it was fun to try something new.

It's too bad I didn't have a mouthful of chocolatey goodness on my way to work last Thursday. As one might expect, I drive the exact same route every day. I take the highway across town to the business park where I work.  I know the precise point at which the speed limit changes from 55 to 65. The long arm of the law knows it, too, because it is not unusual to see patrol cars sitting under the nearby overpass. So, I am generally pretty careful to watch my speed before I get to the 65 MPH sign. On Thursday morning, a huge pick-up truck came out of nowhere and attempted to drive up my tailpipe. I sped up a bit so that I could attempt to pass the car that was in the right lane (I was in the left lane) before moving over. However, I guess I wasn't fast enough or maybe this guy was in labor. He sped up and managed to get in front of me despite the presence of the car in the right lane. I had to hit my brakes. Instinctively, I gave the ol' one finger salute.  I figured a guy as important as he obviously was would not be looking in his rear view mirror to make sure the driver behind him was safe and sound. Wrong.  He moved to the right lane, slowed down, and then followed me all the way to the business park where I work.  I did start to get a little scared.  I couldn't really understand his point. He had been in such a hurry that he had to try to run me off the road, and now he had the time to follow me through the business park?  I wasn't sure if he was going to track me all the way to my office. I know he was definitely following me because when I looked in my rear view mirror, he shook his finger at me. Anyway, just when I started to get really worried, he peeled off and zoomed down a side street near my office; he didn't follow me all the way there.  What a psychopath. He's the world's most aggressive driver and somehow I am the one with the problem? Like he was going to teach me a lesson or something?

When I left church yesterday, I noticed that someone had keyed my car door pretty badly.  It does look like an on-purpose sort of thing.  It either happened while I was at church or while I was at Zootopia with my family the night before (great movie, by the way).  I think I'm just going to tell myself that it was a different jerk who keyed my car because it's a little too scary to think that Mr. Important is stalking me or something.

That's all the news for now.  Do try to see Zootopia if you haven't seen it. We really enjoyed it.  Now that I've seen a couple of movies while sitting in the "DreamLounger" recliners, I don't think I can ever sit in a regular old movie theater seat again.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Flimsy Protest Posters (and other things)

I attended my first circus protest on Friday evening. The protest happens annually but in past years, I was always out of town or there was some other event getting in the way. This year, my kid was out of town, but I had nothing on my schedule and was free to head over to the arena and join like-minded people in protest of the Shrine Circus. It was a peaceful protest, meaning that we didn't yell at the circus attendees or anything like that. We just held up our signs as they passed. We had a large enough group that we could split into two, making sure that we could catch people coming from two different directions. There was a specific area where we were allowed to stand.

Naturally, it started to snow pretty heavily just as I was leaving to head over to the arena. I wore my snow boots and dug out a hat from our "winter junk" bin. I already knew three of the protesters, so that made me feel more comfortable. I brought along a sign I'd made two days before. Because I have the handwriting of a serial killer, I printed some text in large letters and glued the individual words to the poster board. Well, once my sign started accumulating snow, it lasted about a half hour before it started to wilt. Plus, my fingers were cold from holding the sign. I wished I'd worn my snow pants. Fortunately, the more seasoned protesters had extra signs - sturdy signs. So, I grabbed one of the extras and held it up instead of my floppy sign. I made a few mental notes for next year: make a better sign, wear thicker socks, and buy better gloves.

As I mentioned, this was a peaceful protest. So, no yelling. I noticed that as families streamed by, most of the adults averted their eyes. They knew why we were there. They didn't want to look at the signs. They didn't want to know how baby elephants are trained to perform (brutally). They didn't want to know about bullhooks and such. Elephants don't perform because they enjoy it; they perform because they'll get a sharp hook in their flesh if they don't. You know how you hear about an elephant escaping a zoo or circus every so often? And what's the first thing the elephant does? Typically, he kills his trainer or keeper. Because bullhooks.

When I saw the adults carefully averting their eyes, part of me did want to yell, "You're looking away because you know this is fucking wrong!" But of course, I didn't. The protest wasn't about berating circus goers. It was about planting a seed, I think. Many of the kids who passed by did read the signs. Maybe next year one of them will tell his parents, "I don't want to go."  When I mentioned to my co-workers that I was attending a protest, all of them said that they were unaware the circus was even in town. That is my hope, really - that with each passing year, people care less and less about the circus and eventually they can't sell enough tickets to run the damn thing.

I do think we are in an important period of consciousness raising. People are mad about the whales at SeaWorld. People are mad about the ivory trade. People are mad about gestation crates for pigs. The list goes on and on. When enough people open their eyes and demand change, it really can happen.

Today is the last day of the circus. Some of the other protesters have been out there for every show, all weekend long. Next year, I'll plan to make a commitment to get out there more, too.

When I drove home after the protest, I was half frozen. All I could think about was building a fire in my fireplace and having a glass of wine. So, I did. An hour later, my legs were still cold to the touch but the fire did its job in time. So yeah, I failed at my 30-day challenge on the 18th day. I'm still holding steady with the "no dessert" thing - for now.  I did come to one realization in that regard, though. At work, I normally eat a vegan granola bar in the mid-morning timeframe. My afternoon snack is typically a banana or apple. When I gave up the granola bars, I started replacing them with sesame sticks or lentil crisps. I am not so sure I am better off.  Not eating sweets led me to eat more salty snacks, which is probably not all that beneficial. For example, one of my favorite breakfasts is: a veggie sausage link, some fruit, and a chocolate zucchini muffin. Those muffins (made from a Happy Herbivore recipe) contain bananas, apple sauce, and zucchini. They are only 150 calories, if memory serves. So, yes, they have chocolate in them, but I am starting to think my muffins weren't all that detrimental.

In other news, my guy and I spent a lot of time together this weekend since our kid was out of town with a friend. We went to an art festival yesterday. He spotted me fondling a purse and bought it for me. He said it was in exchange for me washing his underwear for the last gazillion years. After the art fair, we went to dinner (at a place our daughter hates) and then to a movie. We saw "The Witch."  Critics love that movie so we were expecting to be blown away. Instead, we left saying, "Well, that was strange."

So, that's my weekend so far.  In closing, just a little reminder: Boycott the fucking circus. Please and thank you.