A Halloween Homecoming

jack o lanternHalloween’s always been my favorite holiday. I love the costumes, the candy and the camaraderie. Halloween memories burn bright in my mind.

I grew up in a New York City suburb – exurb at the time – where Halloween went something like this: From toddlerhood to the time I got too cool for it, I’d go to school in costume, come home and head out to the neighborhood parade and costume contest. I’d parade around for the contest and whenever I had a homemade costume — my mom was a great seamstress and designer — I’d place. I never won, but the attention, the cider and cookies all combined to produce some serious joy.

The contest took place before trick-or-treating. When we were small children, the adults would rush home from the costume contest to man their doors for us. We’d all hit the houses, trick-or-treating on our way home. And it was good. We got lots of candy and we were done by dinner. After dinner we’d help Mom and Dad hand out candy, admiring the big kids’ costumes. read more

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

Bye-bye Buffett

parrotSaturday was my favorite day of the year – the day of the Jimmy Buffett show. I’ve been going to shows since 1997, once or twice a year on the East Coast, and one year out of six in Seattle, because he only played there once during our stay. I’ve seen him in Vegas; I’ve seen him in New York, Virginia; and I’ve seen him up close and personal in Key West.

I don’t talk about it much (or ever) here, but being a Parrot Head (for that’s what we official fans are) is a big part of my life. My husband and I met in part because of Jimmy Buffett – he found a girl on Match.com who was into Buffett and 80s hair bands and just had to meet her. Most of our closest friends come from the Parrot Head clubs that we’ve joined wherever we’ve lived. Our social life revolves around the Parrot Heads. Our kids know scores of Buffett songs and we always make sure they’ve got at least one Hawaiian shirt to wear to club gatherings (phlockings). They go to parties and charity events with us and those experiences, in part, are why they’re so good around adults. 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