Dog Days

dogWhat a difference a week makes. Last week I wrote about our new puppy and how miserable I was since we got her. I was ready to give her up. I really was. But it’s getting better.

We met with a dog trainer on Sunday, and he taught us the ins and outs of crate training for housebreaking — how to do it right. The puppy doesn’t quite get it yet, but on the plus side, I’m not running after her with a spray bottle and a rag all the time.

The trainer told us that the kids should stand still when she attacks them. The puppy’s playing, but she growls and bites their clothes (mostly) and scares them. They dance around trying to avoid her, or they scream and run. Either way, the puppy thinks it’s part of the game so she keeps growling and jumping up and biting. We tried standing still and it works. Mostly. read more

Dog Tired

Bad dayI thought we could handle it. I thought it was time. I thought it would be fun, and cute, and therapeutic. I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

My daughter’s been asking for a dog since she learned to talk.  She loves dogs. Every time we see someone walking a dog, she asks if she can pet it. Every time she sees a picture of a dog, she goes on and on about how cute it is. Every time she thinks about a dog, she asks when we’ll get one. And we’re dog people, so naturally we planned to get a dog.

We waited for the kids to get old enough. My daughter’s almost seven and my son’s almost four, so we figured they were ready. We made a plan. We would get a doggie door. We would build a fence. I’d done the due diligence. I was ready. We were ready.

I started to look for rescue dogs to adopt. I looked for a poodle mix that was medium-sized. We wanted a smart dog who didn’t shed and would be good with the kids. I would have loved a small dog but we have huge hawks in our backyard and they’ll attack any animal smaller than twenty pounds. It’s true. I looked it up. read more

Crazy from the Heat

SunGod was punishing us for taking the kids to a winery. We lost our son for the longest seven minutes of our lives (See “Seven Minutes”); and, as if that wasn’t enough, we narrowly avoided a trip to the hospital.

After a two-hour ride in the minivan, we got to the vineyard’s Key West festival, where we were meeting some friends. The way the festival worked, we were supposed to do a wine tasting and buy a bottle to drink. The kids had been great in the car, but they needed to move around, so I said I’d take them and my husband and our friend Annie went to do a tasting.

I took the kids down to a field by the entrance. Some other kids were playing and I told them to race to the end and back. They ran and my six-year-old daughter easily won, but I was happy that they burned some energy. It was hot that day — but not sweltering — and we sat in the shade for a while. When they got restless, we browsed the vendors. There was a sand art vendor and the kids had fun making a multicolored baseball and a clamshell.  Sand art in hand, we headed back to our spot by the band. My husband had set up the chairs and I got some wine and went to chat a little, but just then my three-year-old son kicked off a hardy cry fest. read more

From Bad to Better

FriendsA few weeks back, we were desperate. My daughter’s tantrums had driven us to the brink of insanity. Well, not exactly the brink. We were over the cliff and plummeting to our imminent demise. (See “Major Meltdowns” and Surviving Easter ‘Break’) Well, I can’t say that we’re not insane anymore – that’s a very subjective state. But things have changed dramatically.

We took our daughter to a therapist who’s wonderful. My daughter loves her and gets so excited about her sessions. The first thing the therapist did was to recommend a book, “1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12.” I admit I haven’t finished the book (Because when do I get a chance to read? There’s a DVD too if you don’t have time to read a book either). But the basic premise is this: When your child acts up, you give her two chances to shape up, and if she doesn’t, she goes to her room for a time out. Doesn’t matter what she does in her room as long as she serves her time. read more

Finding a Home

houseWhat a difference a home makes! Last year at this time my husband and I were miserable. It was April in Seattle, characterized by cold rain storms – a change from the constant showers in the winter and half-days of rain in the fall. We’re summer people and in Seattle we had to wait forever for summer. If we were lucky, it would come in June. Most of the time, summer came in July but sometimes it would hold out until August. Once summer arrived in Seattle, we had beautiful weather – 70s and 80s and hardly any clouds, but it was too short for us.

We moved back to Maryland in December. Six years ago, we’d moved out by the Chesapeake Bay and we loved it there, but my husband got a promotion that took us to Seattle. We were optimistic, but after six years, Seattle grated on us. It wasn’t just the weather. It was the people. Seattleites, for the most part, are very polite and superficially nice, but they’re very guarded. I knew people for years in Seattle and didn’t learn anything about them. I’m not making it up. The phenomenon has a name: “The Seattle Freeze.” It refers to the moment that Seattleites freeze up – usually the moment you ask them anything more personal than their name. They’re also called “The nicest people you’ll never get to know.” Sometimes you’d know someone for years and then find out they never liked you.  read more