Saturday, June 25, 2011


Sidamo: Julian, do you believe in God?

Julian (6-year-old next-door neighbor/best friend): No, do you?

Sidamo: I don't believe in God. I believe in the Piston Cup.

Combine this with Nora's, "We don't go to church; we go to hotels," and I think we've earned an A+ in religious education.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

About the dog

In the camping post, I made reference to some relationship struggles. With a dog. Time to elaborate and beg guidance.

Edie has been with us for four months now. In so many ways she's a wonderful dog—she loves the kids. Absolutely adores them, follows them around, is gentle with them, and puts up with their antics with a smile on her face and a wag in her tail. She's quite mellow for a 1.5-year-old dog, doesn't chew things, is trustworthy left alone, has never had an accident. She gets check marks on much of the Perfect Dog Checklist.

Unfortunately, she also has some issues. Serious issues. She has a crazily intense prey drive that causes her to chase anything that moves—squirrels, birds, bicycles, motorcycles, helicopters, other dogs … making leash training really, really difficult. We've been working hard on it, and she's slowly improving.

However, there's an issue that is not, so far, resolving with training: territorial aggression. When anyone comes to the house, which is about 10 times a day (we have a very busy household), she turns into Cujo. At first it was just barking and retreating, but now she'll actively pursue people while barking maniacally. On Saturday, she lunged and snapped at Greg's uncle during Nora's birthday party. Luckily she didn't make contact, but it was scary.

I've been in touch with a couple more behaviorists and the rescue we got her from. The general consensus is that, with lots of intense training, we might be able to manage her aggression but not erase it. Which freaks me out. Essentially, they're telling me it's going to be months/years of lots and lots of work just to minimize the risk, but she'll never be a bombproof dog.

We need a bombproof dog.

As someone who volunteered for years for a dog rescue, I get what a ridiculous thing that is to say. I get that dogs (especially rescue dogs) have issues. We worked through our 140-pound Great Dane's dog aggression. It was a ton of work and it took years, and we had no kids at the time. The stakes were lower, our hands were freer, and our time was plentiful.

And the truth is, we can deal with issues. Certain issues. But aggression is sort of a non-starter for me. I just can't have a dog who might bite when I have three kids whose friends are in and out all day long. So here's another thing I feel awful typing: I think we might need to return Edie to the rescue. And it's hard on so many levels. Edie has been through so much transition already and clearly has come to love our family. What's more, our family has come to really love her. The kids adore her. They (especially Nora) light up when they see her. She's their favorite playmate. It will be heartbreaking for them if we give her back.

But on the other hand, it would be far more devastating if she were to hurt someone and had to be euthanized.

Ugh. After typing it all out, I guess the answer seems pretty clear. I'd still love some weigh-in, though. Maybe there are some angles I haven't thought of, or just some words of comfort about a crappy situation. Please?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

3-year-old baby

My sweet little girl turned 3 yesterday. In some ways—temper, simultaneous yet conflicting desires, extreme stubbornness, to give a few examples—she's 3 through-and-through.

In other ways, though, she's still the cuddly little baby who wants Mommy to hold, rock, and sing to her. A little like she was three years ago.

For her birthday, she wanted (what else?) a strawberry cake with a chicken on top. After scouring the web and finding the most unappetizing chicken-shaped cakes you could possibly imagine (really, try a quick google search), I found this adorable one. They were harder a lot more work than I imagined, but luckily my friend Jess came over to help. Voila:

Since Greg's birthday was last week too, we had a combined party on what turned out to be Father's Day (oops—need to check the calendar better next time).

It was a splendid day. Perfect weather, yummy food, and water play for the kids.

Such a fun celebration of my fun, quirky, chicken-loving chatterbox and her handsome, devoted, hilarious, and handy papa. I'm doubly blessed with my wonderful Geminis.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

First camping trip 2011

We took our first camping trip of the year last week, and it was lovely. My kids, as you may have noticed, are happiest when outdoors, filthy, and in some state of undress. Camping is the perfect activity for them. Greg is happiest in the mountains, fishing, with his family close by. Camping is the perfect activity for him, which is why we always take a nice fish-centric camping trip around his birthday (which is today—happy birthday, baby!).

So last Wednesday, we headed to the hills with our good friends Pete and Jess and their two girls, Hazel and teensy little Annie. Also in tow (badum-pum) was their brand-new-to-them Airstream. Oh how that lovely tin can changed the camping experience—for the better.

You maybe can't tell it from the photos above, but the first two days of the trip were outrageously windy—so windy that our heavy-duty tent poles look like they've been run over by a truck. And since we were camping on the shores of a lake, the wind kicked up huge amounts of dust, making it impossible to be outside for good portions of the trip.


Which allowed for plenty of reading time, another favorite of my kids and Hazel. In fact, we had enough holed-up time to read the first 100 pages of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to Sidamo. It's the first chapter book he's really gotten into, and he's totally enthralled. So am I, actually. Much more so than the first time around.

We also took a lovely hike around Monarch Lake. Sidamo was a rockstar—4+ miles with very little complaining. Actually, he probably went more like 8 miles, since he was running laps around us the whole time. Nora on the other hand demanded to be carried for much of the hike, which made it even more of a workout for her daddy. And Edie continued to act like the crazy beast that she is, making me want to push her into the raging river more than once. (Another story, Edie and I are experiencing some conflict in our relationship.)

The campfire food was delicious, of course. The non-alcoholic beer was entirely fulfilling. I'll keep telling myself that. (Pete, above, is enjoying the leaded variety.)

And I sort of wish there had been something totally calamitous about the trip, because that would make the above "Pete Emerges from the Ashes" photo more meaningful. As it is, it's just a pretty fantastic pic. (Speaking of, all the photo credits go to Gregola, the family photographer.)

We're all looking forward to our next trip—and trying to resist the urge to buy an Airstream.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The week that lasted a year

It must be a year since Sidamo's last day of school, right? It's impossible to think it was just a week ago. Last Friday night, to kick off summer, we had friends over for dinner. The kids stayed up way too late, and one of them in particular handled it with exactly zero grace. While the other kids (and adults) were having fun, this one whined and cried and complained about the no-fairness of everything from food selection to seating to how many times people clapped for one kid's song versus another's. Everything was measured, and nothing came out in this kid's favor.

There's someone else who lost all grace that evening. That would be me. What were designed as encouraging talks to help this kid get it together quickly turned into increasingly frustrated lectures about how we're all in charge of our own happiness, and if we choose to be miserable, no one can make us be anything else. All true, in theory, but probably not age- or event-appropriate.

That point was driven home at 5 the next morning when this kid woke up having vomited in bed from coughing so hard. Poor thing was sick, overtired, and cranky the night before, and mama was anything but supportive. Then the other kid woke, also with an unstoppable cough. We tried to keep them in bed for a few more hours, but no one was feeling any better.

By 11, I deemed Nora's shallow breathing a bit concerning and decided we should take both kids to urgent care rather than waiting through the holiday weekend to see our regular pediatrician. Turns out she was having an asthma attack. The urgent care folks admitted her to the hospital, where we stayed for two nights.

Nora was the ideal patient. She took her nebulizer treatments every two hours around the clock without a single complaint. Even when being awoken in the middle of the night by strange respiratory therapists asking, "Are you ready for your breathing treatment?" she'd sit up, smile, and say, "Yeah! Sure!"

At one point two nurses had to swaddle her, squirt saline in her nose, and suction it out using a crazy mechanized snot-sucking machine. She hated it, but still stayed remarkably civil. The nurses left, and Nora told me, "I don't like that nose water." But when one of the nurses returned, Nora looked at her and said, "You're doing a GREAT job. You really are."

Everyone wanted to keep her, but I snatched her away as soon as her oxygen levels were high enough. Even a non-scary hospital stay with a cooperative kid is exhausting and taxing and stressful and no fun at all. There was little sleep for either of us, we were both stir-crazy, and we were just so ready to be home. We were given an inhaler to keep on hand in case this issue should arise again, but we're hoping this was just a reaction to a virus and will not be an ongoing concern. Fingers crossed.

Oh, I forgot to mention that we had finally taken Nora's pacifier away a few days before. Terrible, awful, no-good timing. The first night in the hospital, she wept and fought and insisted that she's not big, she's little, and little girls can't sleep without pacis. And little girls certainly cannot sleep in hospitals without pacis! I almost ran down to the maternity ward and raided their supply closet. But she eventually did sleep, and, surprisingly, hasn't asked for it since.

We came home Monday. Today is Friday, and even though it feels decades ago, we're still recovering. I can't think it's coincidence that last night, at 13 weeks 2 days of pregnancy, I had my first bout of "morning" sickness, and it's persisting. I think my body must just be worn down and staging a protest. Nora, on the other hand, is going full speed and feeling great. What I'd give for the energy and resilience of a 2-year-old on steroids.