Because Dog: The Cat Person’s Guide to Mentally Preparing for a Dog in 79 Easy Steps

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Step 1:  There is no way to mentally prepare yourself for a dog, especially if you’re a cat person, and even if you are already a parent of humans.  The End.

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Ok, just kidding.  Here are the steps that don’t actually work to prepare you for anything but you could read them anyway if you want: 

Step 1:  Be a cat person for 40 years.

Step 2:  Realize that life is short.  Boys and husband have begged for years, so let them have a dog.

Step 3:  Regret this decision immediately.  

Step 4:  Remember step 2.  

Step 5:  Repeat steps 2 and 3 multiple times.

Step 6:  Do not give local shelter your first born child.  WTH is that all about?  We have three healthy boys and three healthy cats!  I’m pretty sure we know how to take care of living things.  No one did a home visit before we left the hospital– “We’re sorry, your house does not yet have socket protectors or a baby gate, you cannot bring your child home.  Also, we need to call three people who know you and also have children to see if you will be fit parents, as well as a pediatrician who will release all of your other children’s medical records to us.  If these do not meet our standards, we will give your child to someone else.”  That place was MENTAL.  

Step 7:  Do not reinvent the wheel–go back to the wonderful shelter where you rescued your kitties.  

Step 8:  Visit several times over several weeks.  Become discouraged.  Repeat steps 2 and 3.

Step 9:  On the 5th visit,  decide to give a dog a trial run at home with the shelter’s “Pajama Party” program.  Watch the family fall in love over the weekend, and maybe do the same (but don’t tell anyone).  

Step 10:  Decide to keep the dog.

Step 11:   Panic.  Repeat step 2.   Panic.  And so on, indefinitely.

Step 12:  Become more broke than you already were because boys/kids.

Steps  13, 14, 15, 16 and 17:  Spend 95% of your time cleaning up pee and poop in the house, spend 95% of your time cleaning up poop outside,  spend 95% of your time washing dog-smell bedding,  spend 95% of your time saying “Good Girl!” (Freaking exhausting for this cat-person who believes in intrinsic motivation. Do you really need that much praise?  I mean, I like validation, but can’t I just remind her once in a while? And does she really need to follow me around all of the time?  Yes, I like you too, now stop needing me constantly.  Geezus, it’s like an insecure boyfriend who keeps asking if you’re mad at him), spend 95% of your time saying “Oh my God!! Drop it!  What the hell are you doing?! Where’s the dog?! Get down! NO! Leave it!! Don’t eat that!! DOG!!! And, OH MY GOD THAT IS DISGUSTING!!!!”

Step 18:  Nearly have an anxiety attack because holy crap what have you gotten yourself into and how are you supposed to function in life if this thing is causing turmoil all over the place and the poor kitties are scared to death and you have no time to even think let alone sit down.

Step 19:  Watch it get a little easier every few days.

Step 20:  Watch yourself melt when the dog shows you unconditional love and affection. (Deny it if mentioned.)  Realize that she really needed us.

Step 21:  Watch your boys smile, laugh, relax, and be comforted and understood by this difficult and adoring creature who has just thrown a giant wrench in your life. 

Step 22:  Feel completely overwhelmed and want to run away because boys AND dog.

Steps 23-76:  WINE

Step 77:  Watch your husband light up every day and brim with emotion because he has wanted a dog his entire life.  

Step 78:  Allow your ever-shifting standards to sway, step away and look at yourself standing in the center of the storm, and hang on for the ride.  

Step 79:  Remind yourself that change is the only constant–my ever-present undercurrent of consciousness.  Change is the only constant.  And man, it sure makes my heart happy to see my family smile.  Also wine.

 

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Such is life

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I made a new friend in one of my classes.  She’s around my age, and we have some things in common, so I did the “hey, let’s connect on social media” thing.  We walked out of class, talked for a few minutes, and then got to talking about having coffee after class one day.  But I had to get going because Latefordinner had to take Tuna to one of his things.  I had to hurry home to be home with the littles. She asked me if I had ever been to this place in town, or this other place…she had to go shopping there, and go eat over there.  Shopping?  At a little place?  You mean somewhere other than Costco or Target?  Wouldn’t that other place be Amazon?

You see, this new friend who is around my age and also in college, doesn’t have children.

She said, “You’ve never been there?!”

“No, I have no life”, I said with a smile.

We laughed, and I found myself floating away from this new friend in front of me. We do actually have things in common–we feed off of each other in class discussions, and we both lean toward holistic practices, plus there’s the age thing.  Age…it really is nothing.  Her laughter was coming from a very different place of understanding, in which someone my age actually did have a “life”, and was not a mother.  I wonder why she laughed, actually.  Probably just because I did. Politeness.  She’s nice, so I’m sure she didn’t actually think anything of it.  But of course I did.

We separated, and I had that unsettled feeling, hearing the echo of myself saying “I have no life” in my head.

It was such a quick realization this time.  No pondering the depths, just hearing the echo come back saying:

“You have SUCH A LIFE!”Echo-Canyon-2.jpg

And it’s true!  My life is FULL, and RICH.  Not with the freedom to shop in little shops, or eat out all the time; but with my full, rich family.  My family gives me SUCH a life.  My life is enriching and busy and chaotic and messy and scary and exciting and boring and breathtaking.  My life is a roller coaster of exhilaration and fear and love and boys and marriage and school.  My life is PACKED with NEWNESS every day, jammed with sameness, overflowing with opportunities to grow and thrive and teach and learn.  Every. Single. Day. of my life is SUCH A DAY. 

Psh, no life.  Why did I even say that? What a thing to say. I don’t have time to have no life. That is the stuff of midlife crises. There is no crisis when every age is SUCH an age. Every life we live within this one is exactly what it should be.  There is no need to call motherhood  and marriage and college less than life, because it is exactly what completes me now. Accepting SUCH a life is crisis-prevention.

Try it: Tell yourself you have no life.  If you don’t hear that echo back, YELL IT BACK. Every one of you has SUCH a life.

No life my ass.

Zen Cheerios

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I wonder, if someone filmed me throughout my day, would it look like other mothers’ days? I wish I could SHOW you what it’s like.  I know we aren’t totally normal, but are we that different?

This morning, I managed to get everyone to the van with enough time to squeeze them to school mostly on time. I sent them all out to the van, came out, and of course no one was actually in the van.  That would be too simple. They were all wandering around outside.  Before I could say anything about why the eff they weren’t buckled in and ready to roll, Tuna announced that Binker had to poop.  Me: “Then why aren’t you inside pooping??!!”

So he slowwwwly walks to the door, Tuna asks where Binker’s backpack is (because that’s relevant at that moment), and Binker rambles up the steps to the house.  I tell him to “HURRRRYYYY UUUUP!!!” Seriously, how does it take three minutes to walk inside and sit on the toilet?

So the rest of us are waiting in the driveway….waiting….waiting….I check on him a couple of times…………..He is the world’s slowest pooper. He took at least 87 minutes just wiping. And we’re officially late.  We pull out of the driveway at 8:20–exactly when we should be arriving at school. I should start recording the number of times we’ve been late because of poop.

Before all of that, my house wasn’t the vision of three angel children getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, putting on shoes, and going to the van. That’s ALL THEY HAVE TO DO.  Those simple steps.  That’s IT.  I have seven million things to do.  They have FIVE things to do.  Why in God’s great Universe do they not understand, after years of school mornings, this simplicity?! I have charts, timers for when it’s time to get shoes on, timers for when it’s time to go out the door, I even remind them every step of the way while I’m doing my stuff (making lunches, sucking down coffee, putting out fires…). They can’t find the right socks, they are fighting with each other, they are playing with Legos still with bare feet…and this morning Binker was constantly whining about how he didn’t feel well enough to go to school–over and over and over he whined at me while I was trying to think!  Whined at me while I sprayed him with Mucinex and shoved Tylenol down him–You’re going. to. school. damnit! (He was totally fine.)  It’s SO hard to just THINK when three little boys need a million things–things that they don’t even need–right NOW.

The hardest part is keeping my cool.  I have challenged myself to keep it cool for four days in a row.  So far this week (it’s Tuesday) I’ve reset my challenge twice.  So much for that.  How about three?

Then Squishy and I have our day doing this and that (Today. Other days are crazier), going here and there, accomplishing things, playing…and then it’s time for pick-up. Armor on. Enter whiny tired Squishy after the day and the playground, talky talky talky Binker, grumpy hangry Tuna…all talking and whining and fighting with each other over the stupidest shit in the Universe, all at the same time.  It’s great fun. Not headache-inducing at all.  We get home and Squishy has a three hour long meltdown about Angry Birds, Binker gets emotional about his old bed that we sold, and Tuna is about to pass out because he couldn’t sleep last night. I really don’t know how I managed to feed and bathe them (help from Latefordinner).  Falling asleep didn’t take long, thank all of the Gods of this great Universe for that.

So, with three angels slumbering,  I sat down at my computer to do my homework, and realized that this blegh post was in order.  Seriously. Because there has to be another parent out there who deals with the intensity, who deals with the morning rush, who is late because of poop. It’s a major challenge for me–to keep my cool when poop makes us late.  To keep my cool when Binker is on the top bunk with Legos when he should be putting shoes on.  To keep my cool when the cat gets on the table and eats Squishy’s cereal. To keep my cool when Tuna wants to discuss the meaning of life before coffee–every single day.

Your lessons will continue to present themselves until you learn them.  These effed up days are not about my kids learning how to get ready on time (well, they sort of are, but not completely).  These days are about ME learning how to find that center of the cyclone while lateness and distractions and poop are happening around me daily before coffee. I have three days left this week to rise to my own challenge of keeping my cool.  I really hope I don’t have to reset again tomorrow.  This is a tough one, because I think that these smart boys should just get it.

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I have memories of sitting on the heater vent in the winter mornings, my mom throwing my clothes at me, telling me very nicely to get dressed. Man, I don’t remember her yelling at me like I do at my boys. I remember watching the last remaining cheerios in my bowl move toward each other, making shapes out of three or four circles together. I would make a ripple in the milk, and they’d re-form into new shapes–faces, animals, boats…  It was like cloud-watching in a bowl.  I wasn’t thinking about the clock. I had no concept of time or school bells. I was cold first, then having a warmer zen moment with my cheerios. I am constantly disrupting my kids’ zen moments with these stupid deadlines.  I tell them “I didn’t invent the clock.  We all just have to follow it if we want to succeed in this world.”  How does a little dreamer child even come to understand that?  The kids need to learn, yes, and the adults need to REMEMBER. We are all born dreamers, the clock is man-made. Maybe I’ll meet them in the middle–they will learn the clock, and I will re-learn zen cheerios.  I should at least try, and probably harder than they do.

Maybe each household’s morning looks different, but these kids are probably pretty similar. If you struggle with your routine, I hope you can try with me, to not be quite so normal. I hope that some of us can remember that what some consider “different”, is actually closer to where we began–little cloud-watchers outside of time.

Man, I hope I remember that tomorrow morning when I have to get them out the door again.  We can look at clouds on the way.

I’m Starting with the Mom in the Mirror

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There’s a book called Mindset by Carol Dewck.  It’s becoming widely read by educators, and many parents. A friend of mine just wrote an awesome piece about it here.  The idea of cultivating a growth mindset has been popping up for me, beginning with a consultant at my boys’ school handing me the book three years ago. I put it off, being busy and all, and I think I actually over-borrowed her book by a year or something.  Oops!  So I finally read it, and the gist is that we can choose to have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.  You can change your way of thinking, and you can choose to try hard at things that aren’t easy.  Of course there is much more to it, and you should pick up that book.

This seemed like a really simple concept, and I pshawed the idea that needed to change my mindset.  Of course I had a growth mindset! My mind has had a lot of attention!  I spent my late teens and twenties working on myself, understanding how I worked, and I came pretty darn far with that, thankyouverymuch.  I needed those years for that.  My mindset was solid.  It was my kids who needed some help here, not me.

The last couple of years brought parent-teacher conferences where I heard that my boys were awesome, except they needed to learn to persevere when things didn’t come easily right away.  I would heavy sigh, internally blame it on Latefordinner, and say “I don’t know where they get that!” That’s not how I do things!  And I work on it with them.  I take them for very long hikes in the woods and make them figure out how to get back, dragging them for miles when they want to quit.  I make them do chores for screen time, teaching them new chores and following through with my rules.  I use the mantra my parents used: “You can do hard things!” I make them problem solve, forcing them to figure things out before I help them. But the desire to work hard still doesn’t seem to be ingrained in their psyche, in their mindset.

The other day Tuna got a new Transformer.  He was frustrated because it wasn’t easy, and Latefordinner wouldn’t help him.  He reminded him that he used to get frustrated when he was four (he’s almost 11 now), but now he had to big-kid-up and figure it out.  Tuna carried that thing around with him all day, working and working on it until he could transform that thing in 10 seconds.  And he did it!  He was so proud of himself.

Then he came to me and wanted ME to try it.

Asking me to do Transformers is like asking me to sew something–I might throw a tantrum and smash stuff.  I have avoided Transformers for seven years now, passing them off on Latefordinner, because I CAN’T DO THEM. I HATE doing them, and no one is going to make me!!

So I wouldn’t do it.  I actually snapped at him  and asked why he even wanted me to do it.  Did he think it was funny that I’m not mechanically inclined?  Did he want to watch me fail? No, I wouldn’t do it.  I don’t sew, and I don’t do Transformers.  I had the fixed mindset that I couldn’t do Transformers, and I refused to try something hard. I told Tuna I would not try.  Now, there are some things in life we just don’t have to do as adults–taxes, sewing, washing cars, dishes…oh wait, gotta do those. BUT, when my child came to me and wanted me to try his Transformer, it was an opportunity to teach him how to do hard things.  I stomped my foot and refused!

The whole thing didn’t sit right with me. I knew I was being hypocritical and childish. I almost blew my opportunity to model the growth mindset. …..until I realized what I was doing.  I took me a day, actually.  Once the lightbulb went off–I think it was Latefordinner’s account of telling Tuna to work hard that flipped the switch– I went to him and asked him to teach me, and to be patient with me. I explained that I really should work harder on the things that don’t come easily.

It turns out he is an excellent teacher!  And, I was a pretty good student.  Transformers are hard when you’re me.  I can do hard things.

How many other times had I unknowingly taught him not to try?  How to quit?  How to not even begin?? How many other opportunities have I blown?

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The good news is that Tuna (10), Binker (6), and Squishy (3) are still young enough to catch on, and they’ll have minimal damage.  I am always brought back to the mirror in parenting.  I used to call Tuna my little mirror–he shows me the truth of who I am–he is a reflection of me.  Somewhere along the chaotic way I lost that, (I think because it’s a bit overwhelming to see three different perspectives of your own reflection, like a three-way mirror), and this has been a shining reminder to do some inward reflecting.  It’s the same concept as putting on your own oxygen mask first before helping others–how can I grow their mindsets if I’m in denial about my own?  I’ve spent too much time projecting, not realizing that I’ve been giving away my opportunities for growth. Mindsets, like reflections, are never solid. We are never ever done growing. Who was I to think I didn’t need to change?  I really hope to hear some hard work reports at conferences this year.

This parenting gig is hard! Good thing I can do hard things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

!@#$%^&*()

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I came out from putting the littles to bed to find Tuna running out of my room looking guilty. He said he left something for me to solve. Uhhh, anyone? Runes? Gah, my kid is smarter than I am.

Me: “I don’t know this code.  Runes?”

Tuna shakes his head, smacks his forehead, “You don’t know your history, do you?”

Me: “I know quite a bit of history, just not this code.” (little punk)

Tuna: “Ok, here’s another hint: think Free Masons. You need to look it up and learn it.  Then we can leave each other notes.

Wtf?  Because it’s too easy to just write notes in English?  And why/where is he learning codes from the Free Masons?  I mean, I agree that they’re fascinating (in fact, we had a conversation a while ago about them); but seriously? Can’t we just do something relatively normal around here? (Stupid question, duh!)  This kid…

He came back in a while later ( he’s supposed to be in his freaking bed), and asked if I solved it. NO!  No, I haven’t solved it. I had said I’d put it on hold.  I have homework (and now a blegh post) to do.  GO TO BED.

I know I did stuff like this as a kid.  I absolutely love it that he is interested in stuff like this (he is obsessed with history, especially ancient Egypt). I will learn the darn code and write him maybe one reply, and then we can do the cute note thing with actual words. I get it, he doesn’t want Binker reading our notes.  But maybe cursive will do for a while??

I love that kid.  And, wtf?  And, what the hell does pig pen have to do with the Free Masons?

And he’s the one smacking his forehead.

*Apparently there is a code called a pigpen cipher. Apparently other people know this. Apparently I didn’t.

Whatever.

Many long thoughts on why I should and shouldn’t shut up.

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I am grateful to have been raised with a healthy understanding of humility and grace. Today I have learned that I have only begun to understand what it means.

My church holds a summer Peace Camp every year, and this year both Tuna and Binker went.  Binker became friends with a boy his age, and on the last day I was talking to his mom and another friend. We were saying that we should get them together. This boy is an only child.

I was observing the attention she was able to give him, the calm he emitted, the calm she emitted, and feeling nostalgic from when I only had Tuna.  He was an only child for four and a half years before Binker came along.  I was able to dote on him, give him all of my attention, and he….uh, never emitted calm….but, I guess maybe I did.  I did not yet know the more scattered feeling of having two, or three.  (Although, that’s a whole other topic, because actually having two or three seems to create more calm  in some ways. I mean, if one-child-me could see the way life is now, she’d FREAK OUT! Whereas three-child-me is like eh, whatever, if you’re not bleeding or broken you’re fine.  And then there’s the whole floor food thing…)

Annnywayyy,

So I was wondering how that dynamic would work on a play date–Binker as the middle, his new friend as the only. They played nicely together, so it really shouldn’t matter. My mind was letting that go, ready to exchange numbers, when her son walked up and talked to her about something. She was able to stop, talk to him with her full attention, hug, and he trotted away. Now don’t get me wrong, I talk to my boys and hug and kiss and give them what they need. The difference I noticed was in her. In not needing to then immediately switch to what another kid was doing or saying or needing.

Me, being all blabbity before the thinkity a lot of the time, said “Awe, I remember that, only having one.”

I was smiling, reminiscing, and then I felt my heart hurt when I saw her attempt to smile at my remark (I do that–feel people. It can be helpful, but it sucks a lot too.)  I didn’t understand why, but the energy shifted, and I realized that that was NOT the thing to say. She seemed uncomfortable, then I was uncomfortable, and I changed the subject.

Flip to months later. We never did set up a play date. We became facebook friends. She posted an awareness meme about baby loss–stillborn, infant death, miscarriage.

Oh.

Cue the tears, and the feeling that I never really will know anything, and that I probably should never talk ever again. And, the desire to tell her that I had a miscarriage, and how in the great Universe could I be so heartless to assume that someone has one child by choice.  One little seemingly innocent comment unearthed great grief.

I don’t know her story, but I know the pain of loss.  I don’t know anyone’s story, and I know the importance of NEVER ASSUMING ANYTHING EVER.  There is a saying: Always be kind, we don’t know what another person is going through. I can extend this with “always think and think again before you speak”.

All children are amazing miraculous blessings.  The families with six children–the ones we say are crazy–are blessed.  We don’t know why they had six children.  We can never assume to know. The families with one child–where we wonder why they were never given a sibling and will they be ok in life without one–are blessed.  We can never assume to know why they had one child.

It’s not a topic we discuss.  We whisper “I lost one too”, and that’s the extent of it.  I remember that I decided I wouldn’t do that–be quiet about it after it happened–and then I forgot I said that. Until two things happened:  Tuna and I had a conversation, and the next day I saw the meme.

“Mommy, is a baby growing inside a mom alive?” (you know, every day conversation with a 9-year-old. I have no idea where this came from.)

“Well, it develops a heart beat, and it is a big debate on whether or not a fetus is alive.  Some people believe anything with a heartbeat is alive.  Some people believe that they have to be able to breathe on their own.  Some people have other beliefs. It’s a grey area. Sometimes babies are born prematurely and they can’t breathe on their own.  Sometimes doctors can save them, sometimes they can’t.  Sometimes it’s not up to us.”

He looked really sad.

I told him I had a baby growing in me before I had him, and I lost it. He was surprised and asked his or her name. I had never given it a name, didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, never really thought about that, and once again was blown away by the depth of conversation I have with my boy.

“So I might have had a sister.”

“Yes, maybe that was my girl.  But now I have a niece, and maybe one of you boys will have a girl and I’ll have a grand daughter.”

“You’re going to be an awesome grandma, mommy!”

“Thanks buddy.”

Since then I’ve been thinking of what I should name the baby that I miscarried. Then the meme showed up. I think I will choose a name to honor all lost babies, worthy of being honored and talked about, not to be ashamed of, not to be embarrassed about. A name to honor everyone’s choice to have 10, not have any, adopt, not name, talk, not talk about it, grieve.  how can there be such a name?

With Unity. We as grieving mothers and fathers can find peace in Unity. Unity is where we come from, and it is where we go after this.  Coming from One, returning to One. My comment may be forgiven with Unity. We all can understand it on some level.

My lost baby is named Unity, in honor of all of us. She is joined in Unity with all lost babies, and their parents are joined in Unity through their grief and healing.

As Albus Dumbeldore said, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” I was afraid to name her, and now that I have, the fear of the sadness is gone. I hope her name resonates with one of you as well.