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Why this one?

I’m on a mission to save Otis. He is a five(ish)-year-old Boxer I found yesterday near my office. He was walking down a busy street. I picked him up without thinking it through. I can’t leave a dog. 

My last fostering experience ended with the death of a dog I had grown to love. Cooper was an English Coonhound I fostered through a rescue. I had never fostered formally before, and I expected more support. I expected more communication. I networked the dog myself, and found a potential home for him in Florence, South Carolina. The people filled out the application, sent in their vet references, and I did the home visit. Everything looked perfect. A week later, I received a text from the rescue organization director. It read: Cooper is dead. Upon calling the director, I learned that the adopting couple had left the dog in their parents’ outdoor kennel while they were moving. Cooper was bitten by a snake and he died. The director was angry and sad. And she blamed me.

Rarely does a day pass that I don’t think of Cooper, being bitten and dying — maybe slowly — alone on a summer day. It gnaws at me. If I had just kept him a little longer. If I had adopted him to a family in Greenville. If I had not been so eager to get him adopted. 

There’s no happy ending there. No resolution. For a long time, Matthew forbade me from fostering. I complied, not because I’m good at listening, but because I felt like I was shitty at rescuing dogs. 

A few people I work with love animals as much I do. About a month ago we pooled money to rescue a yellow lab, Cherokee, who was just hours away from euthanasia. After pulling her from the shelter, we realize she was in bad, bad shape. At the emergency vet, we were advised that due to a vast number of simultaneous issues, the dog should be humanely euthanized. We agreed. And we were publicly berated for the decision.

So yeah. I’ve had two horrible experiences. I’ve questioned myself and my ability and my commitment and my decisions. But when I saw Otis lumbering down the street, panting and affixed with a thousand-yard stare, I didn’t question myself.

If you’d like to learn more about Otis and his story, check out his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/saveotis. If you’d like to help us with his medical expenses, check out his donation page: https://www.youcaring.com/saving-otis.  

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Best damn smoothie

Matthew wanted pizza tonight. I wanted to eat clean, because I’ve been a little off track lately and that makes me feel pretty bad, both physically and mentally. Over the past few months I’ve been going to a gym, shelling out money for a personal trainer I can’t afford, and lifting heavy. My body has noticed. And all those people who swore that working out would terminate my stress: Hats off to you. I concede. I hated you for a while, but you were right and I was lazy.

Back to the smoothie. I typically make this killer green smoothie from Thug Kitchen, but I’m out of pineapple and orange juice. Meh. I did, however, have organic strawberries, a few blueberries at the bottom of a carton, and a big tub of spinach. Improvisation.

spinach smoothie

Throw it in.

There’s really no recipe; just take what you think might be alright and mix it up. I used:

6 strawberries
15 or 20 blueberries (this isn’t a food blog, ok?)
Handful and a half of spinach
Little bit of milk
Little bit of plain yogurt
Couple chunks of already frozen bananas

Trust me on this: You do not taste spinach. Translate me on this: Your kid will not taste spinach.

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You is kind. You is smart. You is sometimes a jackass.

“If you don’t start out too big for your britches, how are you gonna fill ’em when you grow up?”
– Stephen King

There are times, many, in fact, that I wonder if Cole doesn’t have a tad more ego than the average dirty-pants’d six-year old. Maybe ego is the wrong word. Maybe it’s not. I’d like not to admit that he’s either overly self-centered or bursting with an unrealistic (bloated) view of self. But he does think pretty well of himself. He’s happy to be Cole. So happy that, upon playing a “What Are You Thankful For?” game with the family, Cole wrote one word: Me.

From a Buddhist perspective, ego is a center of self, but it’s the false center, the one derived from others. True center is the one you’re born with — that’s the self. A kid is born without consciousness of self, and once born, the child because aware of the Other. The child is aware of his mother, how she holds him, smiles at him, and tells him, “You are precious to me.” And through that love and care, he feels good and important and valuable.

And then, through that interaction with the Other, he becomes increasingly aware of thatthingwecallself. He goes to school and learns that he’s not the center of the universe. Sometimes he fails. People don’t like him. Someone rolls her eyes. Another tells him that he’s not cool. Problem is, though, that’s not real awareness. It’s reflected. It’s born of a million different interactions with Other. It’s a complex, growing, tangled thing that’s shaped by how the world reacts to us. Ego changes. The reflected center grows and shifts and mutates until it’s a great hulking thing that we believe is … us.

(It’s not.)

Now is it possible that I’ve bolstered inflated Cole’s view of self? You bet it is. I lavish praise on the kid. I may have, on occasion, given him a line from The Help: You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

 

I’ve gotten better, though. I have. I didn’t realize that I might be doing him a disservice with the over-the-top ERMERGERD YOU’RE SO GREAT until sometime last year. And now, I’m careful to praise him for hard work, rather than intelligence; for kind action, rather than sweetness; for a job well done, rather than innate ability. And I’m honest. When he asks, “Am I the best bike rider you’ve ever seen?” I give it to him gently, but I give it to him true.

He’s working out his identity. I’m working on ensuring that identity is solid and realistic about his strengths and weaknesses. Again with the balance.

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Sweet house

It’s been forever. ForEVER. I meant to post as soon as I signed the papers and moved in — but moving into a new house is no small feat and my list of “gotta do this/get this/fix this/rearrange this” is huge. I’m happy. I love it. Cole loves it. The dogs love it. And our chickens, coming soon, are gonna love it. Highlights:

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Must grow grass.

I took this picture a few minutes ago, just for the blog. And upon coming back in, this greets me:

From my front porch looking in.

And one of my favorite sights when I come home:

Leftover marigolds and firewood. Feels like home.

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The bullshit of innocence

I think about childhood a lot. I think about childhood a lot because becoming a parent meant, in many ways, that I was granted a front-row, second-person version of childhood. I get to do it again, this time without the first-person pain. And yet, as a mother, I get a new sort of a pain, the sort that only comes from the poignant distance of being the invested, one-woman audience of another person’s show.

Maurice Sendak died today. I’m very rarely moved by the death of those celebrities immortalized on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and countless blogs calling out to the world. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I don’t really care.

Yet hearing of Sendak’s passing, I paused. I dug the guy. I liked his curmudgeonly persona. I identify with his view of children. This is a dude who didn’t hesitate to write to the darker corners of childhood, a man who didn’t shy away from treating children as what they are: people. He wrote of monsters and isolation, rupture and anger.

He was honest. I think (and I am well aware that it’s a tad presumptuous for me to assert this) that he was honest for the same reason I give it to the Kaiser straight. Kids know. They understand subtlety and metaphor.

“We’ve educated children to think that spontaneity is inappropriate. Children are willing to expose themselves to experiences. We aren’t. Grownups always say they protect their children, but they’re really protecting themselves. Besides, you can’t protect children. They know everything.”

Honest.

Children are tough.

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Closing

Unless something catastrophic (and really, I’m remaining diligent about not countin’ my wee chicks before they hatch) happens in underwriting, I close on my new house on June 1. It’s stressful. I wonder about all the “fun” that I think should accompany home buying and I … just don’t get it. 

For me, buying a house means that I’m really in debt. Like really. in. debt. I worry about money. I doubt I worry about money more than the average person worries about money, but I vocalise it often. What happens if I lose my job? What happens if I find the utility payments are massive? What will I do if the heat pump breaks? How the hell do I buy a lawn mower? What if a tree falls on my house? What if someone breaks in? 

This is what I do.

And the answers are simple: Get a new job. Do more contract work. Save for emergencies (hahahaha). Craigslist. Fix it. Put some NRA stickers on the window. Simple.

Fear of the might-happens is never a great way to live, but a little educated caution is wise. I think. The difference with this buying is that it’ll be wholly mine. It’s all me. There’s no one to fall back on, and there’s no one to really share in the joy and fear with me. And I think that’s why this feels so odd. 

Why am I buying? It’s a good time to buy. It’s also time for these fools to have a real yard:

Cole and Lady

There had better be a trampoline in that yard, lady.

Eleanor would like a yard as well.

Eleanor

Why yes, I just had diarrhea all over your apartment.

And I’m tired of throwing my money into renting. It’s a damn waste. I want to be able to paint my walls and turn my refrigerator into a giant chalkboard and garden in my backyard. I’d like to put my money into something that will someday be a benefit to us. Perhaps more than any of that is that it’s a matter of pride. I’ve lived in an apartment for two years. I’m 32 years old and I’m a mother. My apartment has never felt like home; it’s felt like an apartment. And truth be told, I’ve felt a bit like a failure.

I would have loved to have a house on some land. That is the ideal. What we have instead is a little house on a big lot with a massive, fenced backyard. It’s in a historic neighborhood, near everything, but on a quiet street. And I’m happy about that. 

I’d post pictures, but I’m feeling a tad superstitious. When the house is mine (well, the bank’s but you knoooow) and I have the key in hand, I’ll show you, eh?

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The Neon Pony of Self-Righteousness

My last post was written in anger and in sadness. I stand by what I wrote. Jed did talk to the principal, and he also took her a print-out of the blog, to which she responded, “But there’s profanity in this.” Her next concern was the “bad publicity” the blog might bring to the school. Long story short: she warmed up after confirming that Jed was not recording the conversation and she said she’d like to consider her next actions. I can dig that. Still, that her first concern was the school’s public image — I understand it, but I don’t like it.

That’s not the bigger point, but I did want to follow up on the situation. The bigger point is that Cole had a really poor day yesterday and came home with a “red card.” They flip cards to reflect behavior. If you’re not the parent of an elementary-school-aged kid, you most likely have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s ok — the system is ridiculous. But he came home with a red, which is just one step from a trip to the principal’s office.

I figured that, as usual, this was just an issue of talking and rambunctiousness. There was some of that; he apparently stood on a chair in the cafeteria, after smearing cupcake all over his face. This makes me laugh, and I know that it shouldn’t. I know. But picture it: a kiddie version of Dead Poets Society, little boys with cupcake-smeared faces climbing upon chairs and yawping above the roar of disapproving teachers.

Barbaric yawp

Yawp, but yawp when it's appropriate?

I realize that it’s probably not the norm and that you probably think I’m encouraging disobedience. I only discourage disobedience occasionally, so you can breathe easy. Sorta.

But the comment section in Cole’s behavior folder also mentioned this, and this is the kicker: Teased another child.

Just two days ago, I went on and on (and on and on and on) about my compassionate, inclusive, thoughtful Kaiser. He just served me a much-needed reminder that he is not exceptional. He gets mad. He gets mean. He gets jealous. He gets selfish. And while I don’t think my kid is perfect (hahahaha God), I was riding high on my neon pony of self righteousness for a day or two.

Point taken.

What now? I don’t know. Cole has a notoriously poor memory in regards to mundane, day-to-day activity. And he has no clue what the “teased another child,” note is in reference to. No clue. We talked about the day. I asked him to spend ten minutes in his room to consider it. We went through his actions. No damn clue. I emailed his teacher, because it would be nice to get a bit more clarification on that. And until I do have clarification, it’s very difficult to determine consequences. Is it possible they overreacted? Sure. Is it possible he acted meanly? Sure.

In the end, I took away his new DS for the day. And I talked at him for a while. Not sure that’s very effective, but I needed to say a few things. And I told him this: “I can deal with talking. I can deal with sometimes not listening. I can deal with those things. What I can’t deal with is you being intentionally unkind to anyone.”

All I got for now.

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