Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Being an Adult Sucks Sometimes

Seven years ago, give or take a few months, Chris and I had just finished brunch at a great breakfast place in South Pasadena, California. We decided to take a little walk to digest before heading home and found ourselves in a local pet store. They had a sort of plexiglass display pen in the center of the store; they'd rotate which animal was "showcased" in the pen.

That morning there was a puppy. The sweetest, softest little puppy with a squashed black face and a little nub of a tail. We were instantly drawn to him and spent far too long petting him and slowly falling in love. We asked the owners what breed it was, and then reluctantly dragged ourselves away to go and learn about the breed. We'd just moved into our first house in America, trading up our carpeted townhome with no backyard to a lovely 3-bedroom house with laminate floors and an easily accessible backyard. Upon learning that Boxers are generally a wonderful breed, good with kids and easily trained, we sort of felt like it was fate and went straight back to purchase our first dog.

Simon Hercules Harris joined our household about three weeks later when he'd finally recovered from kennel cough. We tried to crate train him - as all the books will tell you to do - but he was absolutely TERRIFIED of the crate. We did everything we could to make it work, but after the second night of puppy screams, I brought him out and laid him on his puppy bed next to the sofa where I slept for the night. He didn't move until 4:30 am or so, when I took him out to pee. He was completely house-trained shortly thereafter and we never looked back.

Playing with his "cousin" Jackson (aka Ratbag)

We went through about three of these dog beds before we wised up. Or
maybe it was Simon who was wise because he slept on the couch from this
point on.

Yes, we dressed him up

Life got a little hairy for Simon when we brought Pacey home from the hospital. I've written before about how Pacey was tethered to an oxygen concentrator by a very long length of clear tubing. That tubing scared the SHIT out of that poor dog. He never knew when or where it was going to be or would move and as a result, he became afraid of the floor. He wouldn't walk on the laminate floor at all and we had to make a trail of rugs to the back door so he could let himself out.

He never really recovered from his tube-induced anxiety and continued to be a total 'fraidy-cat until we adopted his brother, Huff. Huff made him brave and together the two were a perfect yin and yang of dogness.

Simon was endlessly patient with our kids, who tend to love aggressively at times. He tolerated all sorts of annoyances and never once showed an ounce of aggression in return.

We joked that Simon was really half cat and half human. God knows he could be irritating, but he was truly one of the best animal companions ever.

On Sunday morning we had to take Simon to the vet and let him go on to the Great Doggie Beyond. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in April and it became clear when we returned from our vacation that he was not doing ok anymore. We spoke to an extremely compassionate vet at length, and she helped us see some important things about his quality of life. The vet's office could not have been kinder; nonetheless it was truly one of the most awful things I've ever had to be a part of. I'm grateful that we had the option of curtailing his suffering, but I'm not sure you can ever feel 100% ok with ending a life.

Resting with his Brother-From-Another-Mother

The house feels just a little emptier without him. Huff has to be convinced that it's ok to eat the first bowl of food I dish out in the morning; Simon always used to eat first. Pacey showed a surprising depth of understanding about the whole thing and seems to be ok with it, though we never know exactly what's ticking over in his mind. Brighton asks each day about Simon and why he can't "sleep" here. She misses him. We all miss him.
Christmas 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bits and Pieces

My kids are kind of kicking my ass lately. Summer vacation is a long time to be the go-to person all day, every day. Pacey has been waking up anywhere between 5:30 and 6:00 am every day and we have yet to find a reliable way of keeping him in his room and not waking up his sister. One of my best strategies for handling the long days of All Mom All the Time used to be making sure I was up in time to have a cup of coffee and shower before the kids needed my attention. I'm absolutely not getting up at 5:00 to achieve that, so it means I'm being bombarded from the minute my eyes open.

Pacey has become a real handful lately. He's figured out a ton of new stuff which, you know, awesome, but also a giant pain in the backside. He finally figured out the doorknob covers which means no room in the house is safe (apart from the furnace room and the hot tub room which have locks higher up on them). The other day he let himself out into the garage, climbed in my car and used my garage door opener to open the garage. He can fit out the dog door, and has, causing an absolute and utter panic for about 5 minutes one day when I could NOT find him anywhere (I finally found him crouched by the side of our pond in the backyard. It's only about three inches deep, but still. HEART ATTACK). He is getting into previously unbothered cupboards and drawers and can reach the middle of the kitchen counters, which used to be a safe zone. I think he's really enjoying his newfound abilities, but he's using his powers mainly for evil and destruction. The other morning, the kids invaded our room and then disappeared to play, leaving us relieved to have a few minutes to come to in peace. We could hear them talking and laughing and running around together so weren't too worried about what they were up to. When we emerged, however, it was to find this:

They had found a ball of string and proceeded to use the entire thing to spin a web around the center of our main floor.

The thing that's hard about Pacey is that in the bigger picture, it's so awesome that he's doing all these things. He is using his brain in awfully creative ways and his dexterity has come such a long way. When he takes a bait fish and shoves it in his sister's face, growling "Eat it!!" it is so delightfully "normal" it is hard to be mad. But he clearly needs boundaries and rules just like any kid. Lack of structure is hard on him - he likes doing fun things but he also does best (just like his mama) when he knows what to expect and what is expected of him. Figuring out how best to explain rules to him and help him understand what is a game and what is not is something of a moving target that is eluding me lately.


I had a little mini-vacation this morning. I took the kids to Club Kid and went to get my teeth cleaned. I know, not much of a vacation. But on the way there I got to roll down the windows without anyone shrieking about how their hair was blowing in their face. I listened to songs with explicit lyrics at top volume. I sat in a chair for 30 minutes and didn't have to attend to anyone else's needs. And then I drove to the mall and did something I'm really not good at: asking for help. Chris has a new pair of sunglasses that got scratched up in my bag last weekend. He ordered a pair of replacement lenses but neither of us could get the screws undone to change them out. I don't tend to feel entitled to much and I felt a little funny about asking for help from a business without giving anything in return. But, I put on my Big Girl Pants, asked for some help and a very nice woman at Pearle Vision changed them out for me. I was kinda proud of myself, I have to say. Lest you think two hours to myself was too indulgent for a Thursday morning, fear not. Upon retrieving my children I was treated to an Epic Brighton Meltdown that lasted the entire drive home and reversed any relaxation I'd achieved.


While at the mall, I had a look around for something fun to take on vacation next week. Oh, by the way, we're going on vacation next week. Now, I'm not a fashionable person and never have been. I don't think I wear clothing that's terribly unflattering and try to dress somewhere near my age, but I am most comfortable in jeans and t-shirts. I really tried to have an open mind today, but the current trends are HIDEOUS. Really, really bad. I haven't figured out yet where a nearly-32-year-old stay-at-home-mother-of-two is supposed to be shopping. I'm petite, so I CAN wear juniors' clothing, but even I know that's not cool anymore. I did step into a store called Delia's to take a photo of a funny tank top I saw that said "I Love British Boys." A salesgirl came up to me and gestured to the table in front of me with stacks of t-shirts bearing teenage boys' pictures on them and excitedly asked, "Oh, do you like One Direction?" You know you're far too old to be in a shop when you don't even know who the faces on the t-shirts are. (for the record, I was NOT shopping for myself in there)


We had a truly superb Sunday last weekend. We took the boat out in the morning with friends, pulled up on a beach on an island in the middle of the lake we were on and splashed, swam and generally lazed around for a few hours.

We followed it up with a bbq later in the afternoon with some other friends and I was left with a deep feeling of contentment about life in general. Not so much the next day, though, when B woke up with a horrible bumpy, red rash all over her body except precisely where her bathing suit covers. I had a sneaking suspicion it probably had to do with our lake swim and sure enough, it's something called Swimmer's Itch, or an allergic reaction to a parasite in the water. Apparently it's pretty common, especially in kids, but has really not improved my personal squeamishness about lake water. Also, not amused when my poor scabby child was awake from 1-4 am itching and miserable. Apparently you can reduce the risk of infection by toweling dry after swimming, but my enthusiasm has been dampened somewhat.


We're headed to California next week. I'm beyond excited to see my sister and her family (as well as some friends who live in the area) but am feeling a bit apprehensive about the travel. I think the kids will do fine, but I hate, hate, HATE flying. The older I get the more fearful I get - probably because I do it less and less frequently. In some ways it helps to have the kids with me because I absolutely don't want to teach them to fear flying and because I'm distracted by the task of keeping two often-irrational human beings from losing their shit over the span of several hours. Once we get there, I am definitely excited to have a real family vacation. If anyone has any recommendations in the Bay Area, let me know.


B has a new imaginary friend, Martian Mickey. I'm not surprised in the least...she's about the most social person I've ever encountered and so creating a friend to keep her company when she's alone is pretty characteristic. So far Martian Mickey has been mostly helpful for me, in the sense that I can suggest Martian Mickey's willingness to do things B doesn't want to do herself and she'll sometimes fall for it. He/she (B hasn't really decided whether it's a boy or a girl) likes to have her own food and drink and must be buckled into an imaginary carseat in the car. Yesterday B tried to con me into extra treats by suggesting that Martian Mickey needed some chocolate too. I told her that she'd have to share her own chocolate with Martian Mickey and she responded, "Well, I think Martian Mickey is actually allergic to chocolate." Clever little minx.


Despite all the complaining I do about them here, I really do love my kids and they entertain me endlessly.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Appreciating Art (or not)

 Struggling to make a plan for the day this morning, I took a look at my Gargantuan Master List of Kid Activities I've made for the summer and decided on the Sculpture Garden in downtown Minneapolis. As far as outings go, I'd give it about a 6 out of 10. It was easy to get to (20 minutes), free street parking right in front, lots of open space but plenty of shade if it's super hot out and plenty to look at. 

It was really hard to explain to my natural climbers, though, that the sculptures weren't to be climbed on. I feel strongly about respecting the request not to climb - anywhere else it's appropriate, I encourage monkey-like behavior. I think Pacey especially was confused about why I was being so restrictive about what they could do in this outdoor space. There was one sculpture in particular that basically looked like three giant intersecting slides. Pacey kept pleading with me to let him climb on it and didn't understand that it wasn't ME saying no. It was really annoying when another mom came along and let her kids climb all over it, REALLY confusing the message for him.

Anyway, the kids' favorite part of the whole place was a pedestrian bridge that was built spanning several different freeways to connect the garden with a park on the other side. I was kind of terrified walking across this thing, multiple lanes of traffic whizzing underneath. They thought it was great fun though and were sorely disappointed when their desire to just run back and forth all morning was denied.

A good enough way to spend a couple of hours outdoors for free and without worrying about the kids annoying lots of other people, but I think I'd prefer to return on my own to really see the sculptures (although I think I don't really *get* a lot of them). I would imagine it looks really different in the winter too, which could be fun. I did get to take a lot of fun pictures despite less-than-willing subjects :)

Bridge of doom

I broke my own rule and let them sit in these "windows" while they had a

Looking so OLD

This sculpture was called something like
"Five Panels and Two Rods." I sort of
appreciated the straightforwardness of it.

This picture just encapsulates my girl so well

Possibly the most famous sculpture at this particular location
Some sort of mirrored thing

Great energy-burner

View from the bridge

Friday, July 6, 2012

4th of July

Without a doubt, this year was the best celebration of the 4th of July I can remember. It was a gorgeous hot day and we spent it with many of our good friends. We took a boat out in the morning with two other families, meandering around the lake, chatting, fishing and swimming. Home for naps (well, naps in the car on the way home anyway) and headed to a barbecue in the afternoon. We left that event and headed over to another family's house with a tentative plan to watch fireworks with the kids if moods held out.

We ended up making it down to our friends' dock where we could see several of the cities' firework displays. As it got dark, though, the mosquitoes came out in vicious droves and the kids were getting a little squirrelly. We gave in around 10:00 and called it a night. No one melted down, we weren't hosting anything at our house so it was super low-stress and I think it'll be a day the kids remember. I know I will.

Doing their best to fall overboard

P and A

She likes to be the one to hand out the bait fish

Driving with his feet

In direct contrast to his fearless fish of a sister, Pace is a
little more tentative about the water (he's SO like me)

The crew, having a snack break


The girls and their sparklers. B and her friend C are absolute kindred spirits.

Slapping bugs and waiting for the fireworks to start

Monday, July 2, 2012

Night Terror

Despite my resolve to not get too carried away with summer fun, we've been burning the candle at both ends a little bit. The kids are up and raring to go by 6:30 at the latest every morning, naps have been extremely sporadic, and the evening hours seem to creep away from us and bedtime has become a little too flexible.

Yesterday we had some friends over for a bbq. We hadn't seen them in a long time and their 3-year-old daughter and our two kids were having a blast playing together. It was hard to end the evening - a perfect balmy Sunday - and they didn't end up leaving until 9:15 or so. I corralled the kids immediately up to bed, but in my haste to make up for the late hour I skipped our routine entirely and B became absolutely hysterical. I knew she was overly tired (guilt guilt guilt) and did my best to keep it together while I got her calmed down and to sleep.

About an hour and a half later, I was getting ready to turn out my own light when I heard blood-curling screaming coming from upstairs. I ran up to B's room and she was backed into a corner of her bed, screaming and thrashing and kicking at anything her legs could reach. She was totally irrational and didn't seem awake although her eyes were open. I couldn't figure out anything that would calm her down. She was absolutely frenzied, screaming about not wanting to do something, refusing to let me get close to her. It was terribly unnerving and I was at my wits' end. About 25 minutes later she just sort of passed out on the floor behind me. I was terrified of waking her up and unleashing the fury again so I went back downstairs and set an alarm for 1:30 to get up and move her to her bed when she was more deeply asleep.

At 1:00 she woke up and it began again. I couldn't get any sense out of her, couldn't figure out what was wrong and again she wouldn't let me comfort her. She was scratching at scabs on her legs and throwing things off her bed. I finally got her calmed down by just turning all the lights off and sitting on her bed without talking and got her back to sleep.

At 4:00 am I heard her coughing and she sounded close by; I went up again and found her asleep right at the edge of the stairs. I knew I couldn't leave her asleep there so I picked her up and ended up just sleeping in her bed with her.

She woke up at her normal time this morning, seemingly completely fine apart from almost entirely hoarse from so much screaming. She didn't remember anything about the night before or being so upset. In fact, she was quite chipper given all the disturbances.

I'd heard of night terrors before and I'm almost certain this is what she experienced. Her age, the amount of time after falling sleep that it began (90 minutes), the nature of her behavior and the fact that she was extremely overtired all lead me to believe it was a night terror. There's apparently no real cure for these, nor much you can do in the event. If your child develops a pattern of them some people have had luck waking the child 15 minutes or so before the usual terror begins and can head it off that way. I hope so much that that was a one-time thing for her. It was so unbelievably upsetting to see her so upset and not be able to accept any comfort from me.

My determination to keep a hold on the routines and fundamental requirements of happy kids is renewed. A later evening every now and then is fine, as long as everyone isn't already running on empty. We're going back to having a mandatory rest period in the afternoons (which is fine while it's so hot outside anyway) and today, to no great surprise, B slept for two hours. I'm hoping that a low key week of sticking close to home and getting plenty of sleep will get us all back on track. I think I'm going to bed when the kids do tonight!

On a slightly more amusing note, the kids were playing our on our porch last night and all three appeared at one point with magic marker (of course it wasn't washable) all over their faces. That's just not the kind of thing I get upset about, and we all laughed and felt relieved no one had to be anywhere looking presentable first thing in the morning. I gave a cursory swipe at the marker before bed but B was still pretty covered in it. The streaks of purple "war paint" didn't make it any less unnerving when I opened her door and she was screaming nonsense like a banshee!!!

Do these two look like trouble or what??