Monday, February 29, 2016

A Two-Dog Day

Travelling in the car is a bit
more of a production, too.
I’m just getting used to having two dogs, but here’s what I’ve discovered so far. 

I’m trying to house-train our newest, Tony, so he is either in his crate or I am on him like white on rice, going on frequent bathroom trips in addition to being ever-ready to scoop him up and run for the door, trailing pee and yelling “No, no, no! No pee in the house!”

The vet, who I am beginning to realize was being a wee bit disingenuous, said, “It’s easy. As soon as he’s gone without an accident in the house for a week, you’re done.”

Well, let’s just say, we’ve had to reset that clock a few times. (It’s like “Groundhog Day” around here but with pee and poop involved.)

Technically, Tony and I should be connected by a short leash at all times. When my husband asked me why we were not, I pointed out that my sanity is worth something too.

I amuse myself on our frequent outings by pretending to be the grandfather from “Moonstruck,” muttering, “Ciao, bella! Andiamo! Bella luna!” The dogs don’t seem to mind, though the neighbors are probably wondering.

And those neighbors also probably hear my heartfelt cheers several times a day – “Good boy! Yay! So smart!” – when Tony does his business outside. I’ve even started to cheer 9-year-old Lola since she seems to think it’s unfair – those sad eyes – when I cheer for Tony but not for her.

I’ve discovered we’ve got a bit of work to do on walks outside our yard. Lola pulls on her leash like she’s running the Iditarod and likes to argue with me on street corners about which way we should go. Tony, meanwhile, loses his mind every time he sees another dog.

We are a work in progress.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Dog Stars, Or What Have I Done?

Lola and Tony
Tony was left in a motel lobby, by someone hoping some suckers nice people would take him in. 

I thought, no big deal. After all, we already have a dog.

Is Lola, our 9-year-old standard poodle, perfectly behaved? No. She jumps on visitors, particularly ones that don’t want to be jumped on. She dumps over the garbage.

But she is now the reasonable one, next to Tony.

That’s not really true. He is a cute, sweet boy.

But he is so different from Lola.

Lola was a distinct choice. We read up on poodles. They are famous for being smart and high-energy. (Actually, after Lola outsmarted me a few times, I began to wonder whether a dumb, low-energy dog might not have its own advantages.) Poodles are very social; they make eye contact with people. They walk with a spring in their step that’s called “the poodle prance.” I read that I shouldn’t be surprised if my poodle does not ever want to be out in the yard by herself. Meet Lola. Lola (“poodle” comes from the German for “puddle”) strides through every puddle she comes across.

I’ve now been reading about Tony, who appears to be mostly dachshund

Ut oh.

Dachshunds are notoriously difficult to housebreak. Bred to go after badgers, they are brave to the point of foolhardiness. Tony has appointed himself guard dog already. As hounds, dachshunds are obsessed with food. Tony’s strategy is “eat first, decide if it’s food later.” He eats leaves, twigs, dirt, wood chips. And they hate getting their feet wet. The first rainy day, Tony peeked out the door, then turned tail to run back inside. Forced to come out, he ran to the dry ground under our eaves – and refused to pee.

Wish me luck.

P.S. Here’s what EB White had to say about his dachshund, Fred: “Being the owner of dachshunds, to me a book on dog discipline becomes a volume of inspired humor. Every sentence is a riot … I would rather train a striped zebra to balance an Indian club than induce a dachshund to heed my slightest command … Of all the dogs whom I have served I’ve never known one who understood so much of what I say or held it in such deep contempt. When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes. He even disobeys me when I instruct him in something that he wants to do.” 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Still Working on The Negative Talk

I totally get this.
One time, when my daughter was learning to drive, she got into the driver’s seat in a Dairy Queen parking lot.

As she adjusted her mirrors, she saw a car passing behind us.

“Move it, asshole,” she said.

She got this from me.

I am a terrible, albeit cowardly, road-rager. (I only rage inside the car. I actually tend not to call other drivers “asshole” because “asshole” is very lip-readable. Try it.)

Why the road rage? It’s not really rage; it’s nervousness. I don’t like to drive. Driving scares me. Certain parts of it (true asshole drivers, speeding, tailgating, weaving, for instance) make my palms sweat.

I am very verbal, which is a nice way to say I am a chatterbox. So, when something bothers me, out pour all my thoughts.

This is not a good thing.

When my daughter was in middle school, her math teacher mentioned she was working on my daughter’s “negative self-talk.” It was the first time I had heard the term. And my son is even more like me. He can go on, at length, quite eloquently, about all the reasons his homework, and the teacher who assigned it, are stupid.

But all that talk doesn’t get the job done. And more importantly, it cements, in both the mind of the talker as well as everybody within earshot, such negativity.

I’m trying to stop.

But it’s not easy.

Now, my son is learning to drive. When we get into the car, I promise to be just like a sack of potatoes in the front seat. (He’s required to have someone with him.) But as I grab the Jesus handle and yelp in terror, my son points out that I am quite a talkative sack of potatoes.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

What’s Your Attitude Toward Children?

I know  – with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach – that there are religious nuts out there who think the Bible tells them to hit their children. For example, according to Focus on the Family, “your child is a sinner with a predisposition to disobedience, which he inherited from you and every other generation all the way back to the first parents in the Garden.” This site goes on to advise “use a wooden spoon or some other appropriately sized paddle” on a child who is leaning over his bed. It goes on to say, “It ought to hurt – an especially difficult goal for mothers to accept” and that you want to be “focused as you firmly spank your child, being very careful to respect his body.”

Are you kidding me? How is striking someone’s ass with a paddle after making them “assume the position” in any way respectful? And the idea that, as the website tries to claim, “Your children will feel a lot more loved, and they'll have the privilege and blessing of being in a home that's at peace” because you hit them makes zero sense.

This flies in the face of advice from institutions including the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which, in turn, base their stances on multiple studies showing the negative effects of spanking.

This seems simple to me: It’s not right to hit anyone. Especially the small and vulnerable.

Isn't that what we want to teach our kids?

That instinct mothers have, to not hurt children? It's there for a reason.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Losing Weight

Yay! I lost weight!

Needing to watch my weight is a relatively new development for me. When I was young, I was a skinny-skinny-skinny eating machine.

Well … things have changed.

Several years ago, my husband lost 60 pounds. People, he reports, kept asking him how he did it, but when he told them he watched what he ate and exercised, which is what I’ve just done, they’d say, “Yeah, I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.”

I’m no expert, but, yeah, it does … which doesn’t mean it’s easy or quick.

Things I found helpful:

Get a calorie-counting app on your phone, one that tracks calories expended on exercise as well as calories consumed.

You will need to exercise every day to keep within the calorie count. If you don’t, you will be hungry and being hungry makes you want to start killing people. And turn on the “track my activity” feature, which will minus out calories for the walking it senses you are doing.

Find exercise you will do. VERY important.

Do not let yourself get hungry. Seems counter-intuitive, but if you grit your teeth and try to use willpower to not eat, you will lose control and eat anything (and everything) within reach. Eat frequently and choose things that will keep you full, containing, in particular, protein, even though these foods aren’t the lowest in calories. Do not try to survive on lettuce.

Choose whole grains. Things like brown rice and whole-wheat pasta take your body longer to digest, leaving you feeling full longer.

Don’t make any food forbidden.  Sure, you can eat it. Just fit it into your calorie count. I drink lattes (skim milk, no sugar: an easy adjustment) and, at dinner, wine.

Be realistic: Slow and (relatively, imperfectly) steady is how this works.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Time Flies

But its flight path can be complicated.

I clearly remember being a newly minted college freshman in 1983 and thinking that 1987 was SO far off, it didn’t seem possible that it would ever happen.

Well … Ha!

These days, I see business signs that say “Established 1990” and think, “That looks dumb. That’s not so long ago” … oh, wait.

I vividly remember being a little kid and remembering every Christmas I had thus far experienced, each separately and in great detail.

Now, I have to consult a calendar: “What did we do last Christmas?”

My own high-school and college careers seemed to last forever; my kids’ are going by in a flash … at least to me. When it comes to my children’s childhoods, the saying is true: The days are long but the years are short.

(Like many quotes, this one has been said, in various ways, more than once, by Anna Quindlen, Gretchen Rubin and the indie rock group Modest Mouse.)

There are many explanations for this change in how time feels. One reason: when you’re five, a memory takes up much more of your total life and so feels bigger; that’s called proportional theory. Also, memories of being a teenager and young adult are more vivid because they are a lot of firsts; that’s called “the reminiscence bump.” Meanwhile, time really does fly when you’re having fun; also when you are not having a lot of vivid and novel experiences. And it feels like it’s going faster when you’re busy – and adults are busier than children.

I like that. I’ll go with that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What I Say Versus What I Do

I might like you to think that my reading material of choice is The Economist and Nature, but really, it’s The National Enquirer.

I’m not alone in this. When we used to subscribe to The Enquirer (that bears repeating: we used to subscribe to The National Enquirer), of all the people we knew, only one did not immediately grab it from our coffee table and tear through it, oblivious to what was going on around them. And she’s the most uptight person I’ve ever met.

I’d like you to think I always read literary fiction and poetry but, in reality, I am a huge sucker for self-help books.

I might allow you to think that salads and steamed vegetables are my foods of choice. No. I might grit my teeth and go with them, but it’s the potato chips that I really want. Candy, too. In fact, a friend just freaked me out when she mentioned she still had some Christmas candy left over. Are you kidding me? Honestly, when people say, “I don’t like sweets,” I assume they are lying.

I might tell you, “Oh, I don’t watch TV,” and that would be true, but only because I can’t figure out how to work all our remotes. When I can get a kid to turn on the television for me, however, I am happy to watch marathons of “Cops,” “Hoarders” and “My 600-Pound Life.”

When I have my phone out in public, I’d like you to think that I am a busy, connected person, doing a lot of important stuff. No. I am most likely looking at slide shows of stupid tattoos or plastic surgery gone wrong or videos of what happens when squirrels steal Go Pro cameras.

That’s how I really roll.

There: I said it.

Monday, February 1, 2016

In Praise of Pediatric Dentists

Growing up, I had the world’s worst dentist. He wasn’t just a bad dentist, he was a bad person.

I had lots of cavities as a kid, which he filled without any pain relief. Maybe he couldn’t be bothered. Maybe he enjoyed torturing children. I remember him yelling at me when I moved while he was drilling. I was about 5. And no, I hadn’t bitten him. I should have.

But when my kids were small and I, with trepidation, would mention an upcoming dentist appointment, they would say, “Yay!”

Because they went to pediatric dentists.

Indeed, even though they’re older, they still go to their pediatric dentist.

If I could, I’d go to her too.

Everybody in the office is nice. If there’s any possibility of pain, which there usually isn’t, kids don’t get cavities like I did anymore, great care is taken to alleviate it.

And you’re not shamed for the state of your teeth. When I was a kid, basically I was told I was dirty and that’s why I had so many cavities. But it just happens that my teeth, thanks to genetics, are shaped with deep grooves which are difficult, maybe impossible, to keep clean. (Sealants help immensely with this problem.) My son has the same – and that’s what he’s told. Not his fault (no shame), even though it is his problem (here’s what you need to do).

Really, is that so hard?

Have to say: not everyone is cut out to be a pediatric dentist. I brought my kids to one that tried to sell my 12-year-old daughter on cosmetic treatments for her teeth, which entailed telling her there was something wrong with how they looked and doesn’t she want them to be pretty?

So, yes, some assholes still become dentists.

Choose your dentist with care.