Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Things I Cannot Say to the Dog Anymore

When I'm mad at Oreo, I say things just to let off steam.  He's a dog.  He has no idea what I'm saying, but it makes me feel better.  Unfortunately, some of the things I've said to Oreo cause the girls to cry because they think I'm serious.

I realize how seriously they were taking my rants when I said something about how much fun Oreo will have in the snow this winter.  The brunette twin replied, "Who cares.  You'll take him back to the shelter before then."

Here's my list of the top three things I can no longer say to Oreo:

1.  If you pee in the house again dog, I will just kill you.
2.  You could be a garage dog, you know.  There's no reason you ever need to come into this house.
3.  Don't push me dog.  I'll take you back. 

So, next time he pees a small lake in the foyer, then runs through it in fear because he's been caught and drags it throughout the entire first floor of our house, I've been told I have to say, "It's okay Oreo.  You're just a puppy.  We need to train you not to pee in the house."  (One thing about our first floor, you can run in circles for a long time, especially when you are afraid.  Just ask Oreo.)

Let's be honest for a moment.  If the girls are home, I'll say something like that.  If they are not home, I'll threaten to take the dog back to the shelter and put him in the garage while I clean up the lake and wash all the floors on the first floor.  I realize yelling at the dog doesn't really help anything, but it does make me feel better as I'm on my hands and knees cleaning up dog pee -- again.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Getting into dog training school is harder than we thought

Oreo is a pretty good dog, but it's clear he's never had any training.  We're working with him every day.  Still, several people recommended we take him to a dog obedience class.  It sounded like a good idea, so we went in search of a class.

In my head, I called a few places, found the class that best fit our schedule, and signed up.  In reality, I spent four hours on the phone talking to everyone from pet store chains to private trainers.  None of those conversations went as well as I had planned.  It turns out that getting your dog into a training class is a bit harder than we thought.

Two different pet store chains had openings.  One was for a 3:00 p.m. class on Fridays.  The other was for 9:00 a.m. on Tuesdays.  Both of those dates/times would work if I didn't have to get the girls to and from the school bus.  All of the times I could make were booked through January.

Several private facilities had openings at satellite locations.  One didn't have anything at the Oak Lawn training center, but did have one in Naperville at 6:00 p.m.  While I am available, it would take at least 90 minutes for me to get to Naperville during rush hour.  Since the class is only 45 minutes long, it didn't seem like a good use of my time.

Local park districts with classes were either full or not running.  For some strange reason, either the classes were full or there were not enough people interested to run the class.

I started asking everyone I know where they trained their dogs.  I made many calls to those people without a decent match either.

Several people recommended trainers who come to your house, which ended up costing $100 or more per hour.  I want to train the dog, but I'm not desparate enough to spend that kind of money quite yet.

In the end we found an area training center with a class starting October 20.  It starts late, which will make for a long day.  We're just happy to be in a class at this point.  Until then, we'll continue to work with Oreo at home. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's Hard to Be Seven

Jamie Lee Curtis wrote a great book called "It's Hard to be Five."  It talks about the struggles five-year-olds go through as they move into bigger bodies and bigger emotions.  It gives examples of how hard it it to control those bodies and emotions.  I think I'd like to rename it "It's Hard to be Seven."

The girls are just struggling these days.  They are so tired from school that we've cut out most after-school activities.  They are anxious to learn everything and get frustrated when they don't get it right the first time.  They are frustrated because the favorite pants/shorts/skort/skirt/shirt/dress they wore last week doesn't fit this week. 

The blond twin expresses this mostly when she's doing her homework.  She's a perfectionist who catches on quickly.  She works hard to make sure she not only knows the answer, but understand how to arrive at it the next time.  Her frustrations show up when she doesn't understand something the very first time.  This morning the blond twin threw her pencil on the breakfast bar and started crying because she misspelled the word kayak.  I keep saying, "You're a little girl just learning all this stuff.  You're not supposed to get it right every time."  It doesn't seem to help her, though.

The brunette twin is sitting somewhere between "I love Disney princesses" and "I'm too old to play with princess stuff."  She's frustrated a lot and doesn't know why.  My "what's wrong?" Is usually met with "I don't know."  Yesterday we were walking Oreo when the blond twin started crying.  I asked "what's wrong?"  She replied, "Sissy pushed me down."  After a long conversation dragging information out of her piece by piece the brunette twin finally admitted pushing her sister because she thought the blond twin farted as we were walking.  I said, "For this you pushed your sister down?  Why didn't you just tell me so I could handle it?"  She replied, "I don't know."

These are the times I want to take them back to earlier days when it was all carefree and fun.  I know this is part of growing up.  I know that the way they learn to deal with these things will impact how they deal with frustrations in the future.  I know that "this too shall pass" is a great phrase to repeat when we're in the middle of these frustrating days. 

I just want to make it easier for them.  I don't want the blond twin to cry because she misspelled kayak.  I don't want the brunette twin to push her sister in frustration.  Still, I know we cannot make it easy for them all the time.  They need to learn to deal with life's problems in a way that is constructive.  If they don't learn it now, it won't get any easier to teach this lesson when they are older.  I still don't like it, but I understand and hope we'll be able to help them find ways to grow into their growing bodies and emotions.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shakespeare is wasted on the young

I’ve always struggled reading Shakespeare. The last time I really made an attempt was back in college. The words on the page were just difficult and heavy in many ways. I realize now that the problem was that I was too young to appreciate it.

We were invited this weekend to see Romeo and Juliet at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. I saw it through older eyes, with the experience lacking in my college years. It was an entirely new work for me. For this production, the set was more West Side Story than old-world Shakespeare. The costumes were simple and unobtrusive. The simplicity of the set and costumes allowed us to focus on the story. The actors’ body language and voice inflections gave life to the words we’ve all seen and heard so much. Yet, the words were entirely different for me now.

When Romeo and Juliet ran away and got married, I wanted to say, “Wait. You’ll find another love shortly.” Juliet was 14 when she married Romeo. Weren’t we all sure we were going to marry our high school boyfriends at 14? When the young men were getting ready to defend their family honor in a street fight, I wanted to say, “It’s not worth it. Don’t waste your time.”

These are the things that adults say to young people. I’m sure my parents and teachers tried to keep me from making youthful mistakes, but who listens at that age? You don’t realize until you add some life experience that they were right. You’re sure the high school boyfriend is the one. You’re sure the wrong done to you is the most terrible thing ever.

For someone who wrote hundreds of years ago, Shakespeare still resonates with common-day themes. When the young Capulet and Montague men battle, it’s for the same reasons as today’s misguided youth. “You disrespected me, so I’m gong to get revenge.” When did revenge ever solve a problem? It’s sad that we haven’t learned anything since Shakespeare’s time. The reality is that the older I get, the more likely I am to think that all revenge is a waste of time.

Well, maybe except for the idea that living well is the best revenge. Unfortunately, a long and happy life for Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t make for a good play. Shakespeare wrote a beautiful play in Romeo and Juliet. I’m glad we took the time to see it through experienced eyes. I appreciated it in ways I couldn’t in college. It’s one of the great benefits of growing into a well-rounded adulthood. I can go back and finally understand why my high school teachers and college professors thought a particular work was worth enjoying.

This is an original post of the Chicago Moms Blog. I did receive free tickets for the performance from the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tired Dog = Tired Owner

People keep saying, "a tired dog is a good dog."  I get that.  A tired dog won't cause a lot of trouble because he doesn't have the energy.

What they keep forgetting to say is that for the dog to get tired, the owner needs to get tired.  If Oreo is going to sleep the morning away, we need to walk a mile or two after dropping the girls off at the bus.  In the afternoon he gets a shorter walk as we pick up the girls from the bus.  After dinner he gets another one mile walk.

All of this wears out the dog, but it wears out all of us too.  He's tired and so are we.   I guess the good news is we're all too tired to get into any trouble.  The bad news is that if we're going to keep us this pace, I need a new pair of walking shoes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Seven already?

Today is the girls' 7th birthday.  It is so hard to believe that the helpless, fragile babies we brought home seven years ago are now smart, independent, little girls.

I suppose they were never as fragile as we thought they were.  We worried about everything those first days.  We often wondered what they would be like when they grew up.  There are a lot of notes in their baby books about family members and their predictions.  Now we know a little more and it's even better than we could ever have imagined. 

The blond twin has always been our attention-seeker.  The first night in the hospital she would cry just to have someone hold her.  She'd fall asleep in your arms and cry as soon as you put her back in her crib.  This should have been a sign, but at that point we were too tired to try to figure out what that meant for her personality.  She loves to learn, especially math.  She loves the challenge of new things like addition and subtraction.  She remembers everything.  She's always trying to take care of someone or something (like Oreo).  It's part of her personality to be nurturing. 

When they came home, we called the brunette twin "the Little One" because she was smaller than her sister. It was only a couple of ounces, but it was a big deal back then.  Now she's taller than her sister by an inch or two.  She loves science, even if she doesn't call it that yet.  Anything that she can analyze and ask "why" is a topic she wants to discuss.  She's often quiet and sensitive, and she's fiercely loyal.

I think back to those first days and remember feeling like we wouldn't all survive.  I used to be glad we just got through a single day.  Every day I'd think "today they became a little older and more independent."  Even if back then independent meant they were taking steps towards lifting their heads off the pillows or crawling, we saw progress.  We relished each milestone and promised to never forget the exact day when they first rolled over or crawled.

Already those memories are fading, but they are well-documented in baby books and in photos.  What I look forward to most now are the memories we'll make with our little girls.  I hope they know we love them even more than we did the first day we brought them home. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

He's just a dog

The girls are having a hard time understand why Oreo doesn't think things through the way they do.  My new answer to everything is, "He's just a dog."  I find myself answering questions with this saying dozens of times a day.

The good news is the answer works for all the girls questions.  No matter what they want to know, it works.

*Why did Oreo pee in the hall?  He's just a dog and we're still training him. 

*Why did Oreo try to eat the dead bird?  He's just a dog.  They eat anything.

*Why did Oreo try to eat the blanket in his crate?  He's just a dog.  Maybe he was hungry or bored.  I don't know. 

*Why can't Oreo get his outdoor tie-out untangled from the tree?  He's just a dog.  He doesn't understand how it happened, so he cannot fix it.

*Why does Oreo chase squirrels?  He's just a dog.  He'll chase anything that runs.

*Does Oreo love us?  He's just a dog, but I think he does.

Monday, September 13, 2010

We're Reading the Signs -- It's Time to Slow Down

One of the wonderful things about living in the Chicago area is that there are always a dozen fun things we could be doing on any given day. We’re always on the go doing something we think will be fun. If it’s also subtly educational, like listening to a concert or going to an outdoor art exhibit, even better. We seek out the free or low cost events, so it’s not like these activities stress our budget. They do, however, stress our time.

We’re going through a lot of transitions in our house this fall. The girls are now in first grade. This means they get on the bus at 8:30 a.m. and return home at 4:00 p.m. When they leave in the morning, it’s like they are going off to work. When they come home, they are tired like they have just put in a full work day. In a way, they have. Their job is to learn as much as possible in school.

We also just adopted a dog from our local animal shelter. He’s a one-year-old, black and white Husky with icy blue eyes. He’s beautiful, good with the girls, and a sweet dog. We’re working through the house training issues and getting him into the household routine.

It all adds up to a screaming need to slow down. We have been making hard decisions about what to do and when. And, it’s taking a complete mind-change to adapt.

Before full-day school and a dog, it would have been normal for us to say, “Let’s go apple picking and meet some friends for lunch Saturday.” We would have left shortly after breakfast and returned home late in the afternoon. Now we step back and think about whether or not it’s too much running around for the girls. After a long school week, they probably need time to just play and relax. We also have to think about how much time we can leave our new dog alone. We crate him for when we’re out of the house for short trips, but don’t want to leave him in the crate for four or five hours in the afternoon.

It’s not like I’m worried about what we are missing out. We’ll still be active. It’s just that we’re choosing activities through a new lens. It is going to take a bit to adapt to all the changes. We have to stop thinking we’re missing out on some fun and realize that we’re gaining well-rested children. We have to pick and choose our activities more carefully so we balance doing fun things with the need to take care of our newest family member.

Mostly we need to remember that in Chicago, there is always something fun and interesting to do. It’s our job as parents to make the hard decisions about which ones we participate in and which ones we put in the “next year” file.

This is an original post for The Chicago Moms.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My True Husband

We've long known that the brunette twin connects dots in ways other children don't.  I've often said she has a future in risk management as she tends to see all the problems that could occur in any situation.  

We find lately that she takes a random topic and applies it to her life.  It doesn't even have to be something she hears first-hand.

Today she crawled on my lap and said, "Mommy, is Daddy your true husband?"  It took a while to figure out what she meant, but in the end I discovered she overheard some children talking about their parents' marital situations.  She heard one boy talking about his Mom's new husband.  Another girl was talking about how her parents were getting a divorce, so she had two homes.

What she wanted to know was if her Daddy or I had been married before we married each other.  She seemed happy that we hadn't been married to anyone else before.  After we talked about it for a while, she said, "Are you planning to get divorced?  I don't want to have two houses. I want us all to live in the same house forever."  We talked for a while longer until she decided she was okay and wanted to play with her sister.

She really does break my heart some times.  She overheard the conversation last week.  She's been thinking about it since then.  I don't know why she finally decided to ask me today.  I'm just glad she finally decided to let me answer her questions.

I just hope we can keep having these conversations as she gets older.  I know it will be hard, but I know answering her questions is an important part of making her feel loved and secure.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sarah's Wardrobe

Overheard at our house...

The blond twin was showing us her wiggly tooth when Daddy said, "You know, you'll have to let Sarah know we have a dog.  You don't want Oreo to scare her."  Sarah is our tooth fairy's name.

Brunette Twin:  "Have you seen Sarah?"

Daddy:  "Yes."

Brunette Twin:  "What does she look like?  Does she have a fairy wand?"

Daddy:  "She's a little fairy and she doesn't carry a fairy wand.  She carries two little bags -- one for teeth and one for the money."

Blond Twin:  "How do you know?"

Daddy:  "Well, we have to help her sometimes.  It's a lot of work carrying those bags."

Brunette Twin:  "What doe she wear?"

Daddy:  "A pretty dress with fairy wings."

Brunette Twin:  "What kind of dress?"

Daddy:  "I think it's Lauren exclusive."

Mommy starts laughing and says, "This is so going on the blog."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Road Tripping with Oreo

We have family about two hours south of our home, and we try to visit about once a month.  We decided to see what kind of a traveller Oreo is, so he came with us today. 

Even though it was only a day trip, we packed a bunch of stuff.  It was like packing for a third child.  We kept his regular schedule of breakfast and a walk before loading us all in the mini-van.

He was quite content in the back of the van for most of the trip.  We stopped at a rest area along the way where he was able to get out and move around.  (I know it's only a two hour drive, but sometimes we just have to stop along the way.)  It was when we got back in the van that the fun began.

Oreo discovered that he could free himself from the back by forcing himself between the back seat and the side of the vehicle.  It was a tight squeeze, but he managed to make it half-way before getting stuck.  We made it to our family's home and got him out.

He spent a lovely day outside chasing butterflies and crickets.  He took a walk around a lake and went to a park.  It was quite the relaxing afternoon.

The trip home he decided to let us know exactly how he liked to travel.  The dog tried to get through the side again, but got stuck.  We had to pull over to the side of the expressway twice to get him back where he belonged.  After we thought we permanently solved the problem the second time, we drove off again.

This was where the dog decided he wasn't messing around anymore.  Oreo didn't bother to squeeze through the side.  This time he went right over the middle of the back seat and positioned himself between the girls car seats.  We debated pulling over again and moving him back, but he was so calm between the girls seats, that we left him there.

He spent the rest of the trip sleeping between them.  Every once in a while they would pet him and talk to him.  He'd respond by looking at them and then put his head back down.

We won't take another trip like that again.  Even though it worked out, it's not the way we want to travel with the dog.  I do think it's a good sign that he wanted to be with the girls.  Maybe this whole "getting used to each other" thing is moving along.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Oreo at Home -- Day One

We brought Oreo home last night and most of it went well.  The shelter told us that he would probably be tired and slow since he was neutered that morning.  I don't know what dog they were talking about because ours acted like he just had a four hour nap.  He dragged me on a walk for more than a mile.  He played with the girls.  He paced around the house, taking in all the smells and sounds.  He definitely wasn't slow or tired.

His crate is currently in the girls' room, but that's being reconsidered.  I know part of it was that it was the first night, but the brunette twin refused to go to sleep until the dog was in her room.  He howled and tried to get out of the crate for a bit when we put him in there for the night.  In the morning, the girls popped out of bed as soon as I let him out.  In short, all three of them went to bed too late and woke up too early.  

The bigger problem is that we have to house train him all over again.  The shelter did say that dogs lose their training when they spend time in the shelter because they can eliminate right in their cages.  The shelter doesn't have enough staff to walk the dogs regularly, so most dogs don't leave their cages for the entire time they are in the shelter.  Even dogs that are house trained when they get to the shelter need to be retrained when they leave.

This morning Oreo and I had a standoff on the front porch.  I gave him lots of water and we hung out on the front porch until he went to the bathroom.  I was feeling pretty good about that until I came inside and he immediately did #2 (as we say).  It was in the same spot that he did it last night.  I think I have to go out and get some carpet cleaner to eliminate the smell.  Perhaps if it doesn't smell like his toilet, he won't go there.  

It's a process, and I get that.  I just need to figure out how to work out the timing so we can stop the indoor toilet time.  This is one of those moments when I wish we had a fenced in yard where I could leave him outside for a while.  Once he marks his territory outside, I think it will get better.  Until then, it's an exercise in patience.