Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dog Daze

Perhaps you have heard already that yesterday we added a new furry member to our family. Shadow, a black labradoodle/cocker spaniel mix was adopted into his furrever family (all the shelters and websites use that nifty spelling).  We drove two hours to meet him, decided he was indeed a good match for our family, so we adopted him and brought him home.

He was great in Petsmart and great on the way home, and he has been a sweet, gentle and loving dog in the 24 + hours we have had him home.  We didn't even hear him bark until this morning, and he has been very patient with all the overtures of love my children are bestowing upon him.  All in all, I think he has a great personality and will be a wonderful addition to our family.

But, as usual in these situations, there is a transition period.  And my dear friends, as I might have mentioned before many times, change is not my forte.  This is a major adjustment to our household - it feels like I have a baby again (and thank goodness our rule of "we might get a dog when we have no babies in the house" was kept; I'm not sure I could handle a new doggie and a little one at the same time).  Everything I wrote above about Shadow is true.  He is a fabulous dog with a great personality. And also some diarrhea.  Yep, the poor thing is either traumatized by the last two tumultuous weeks of his life, or he ate some different food at his foster house.  Either way, the guy is having some poopy problems.  On my (newish) carpet.  I know what you're thinking - why did you let him on it?  Don't you know dogs will do that?  We know, we know.  I expect accidents - he's an animal.  But it has made his first day with us a little more challenging, for sure.  He has been accident free since three am (last night also resembled a night with a newborn. . .I had forgotten how hard it is to operate on four hours of sleep!), so we're hoping he's getting more settled.  The boys give me a play-by-play of his poop consistency every time he goes outside, so try not to be jealous.  I have heard "mashed potatoes!" and "oatmeal" and "cream of chicken soup".  One of the boys is predicting solid poop by Wednesday.  We can only hope it will be sooner.

The love from child to dog is a beauty to behold.  They LOVE this doggie, and I love to watch it.  They are also probably driving him crazy, but I digress - suffice it to say he is very patient.  "Man's best friend!", and "He is the best dog in the world!", and "I love you so much, Shadow!" are constant phrases I've heard in the last day.

We had to leave him in the laundry room (barking) this morning for church (he WILL NOT go in the crate we borrowed - thinking he either has never used one, or has had a bad experience with one), and I was pretty anxious that he would be really upset for the three hours we would be gone.  On the way to church, my eldest son suddenly turned down the radio and started praying aloud.  A prayer of thankfulness that Shadow was in our family, and then a prayer that Shadow would be calmed and soothed and feel safe knowing that we would return.  As you might imagine, I was weepy.  I had been praying for God's hand in this transition as well, and his eloquent words calmed my anxious heart.

As we drove home from the distant Petsmart yesterday, I looked in my rearview mirror several times. My 13-year-old son was sitting in the back of the burb with our new doggie, looking serene and blissful.  It made me think of a Norman Rockwell painting, as the phrase "A boy and his dog" flitted through my mind.  It made me smile numerous times.

I am very happy we have Shadow in our family.  I would like to fast forward a week or two to know everything will be worked out, house training-wise, but I suppose that would be the easy way out.  We shall walk this walk as a family and figure it out together.  I just hope the journey involves less poop and more cuddles.

Friday, January 16, 2015

On Letting It Go

I recently read an article on Facebook about parenting three kids versus four kids.  The gist of the article was that parents of three kids are far more stressed than parents of four kids.  The article talked about several things, most of which involved the basic ideal:  Parents of many have to Let It Go.

I can't really speak well to what it is like to be a mom of three kids.  I was only a mom to three for 2 years.  We had our fourth child almost exactly two years after our third, and those two years are a bit of a blur.  In addition, our third child had many, many medical issues that caused us to be in/out of the hospital for the first year of his life.  So, I don't know that my experience as a mom of three is too valid.  Plus I barely remember yesterday, much less ten years ago.

So - I can't really compare three kids to four (or in my case, 5), but I can speak to having four and five.  And I'm telling you, this article was pretty spot on.  Here are some of the basic points it made:

Perfectionism becomes a thing of the past.  Ummm, yeah.  The kitchen floor isn't spotless?  Please.  I am hoping that the children are clean enough to be presentable to the general public.  Knowing all your children's homework dates/projects/assignments?  No way.  I don't micro manage, unless the child is struggling in school.  They learn (sometimes via sink or swim!), how to figure it out on their own. I am here to help, when needed, but it they need to come to me if they are stuck.  And they do.

The more children you have, the more confident you become in your parenting.  I can't say I'm always confident, but I do feel more comfortable in who I am, and how I parent.  I'm not as concerned about what everyone else thinks now.  I know what works for our family, and I feel more confident with how I discipline and parent my younger children than I did the first two.  The article also says you have to just let things go the more kids you have, and that is truth.  I don't have time to analyze why little Johnny is crying, because look, big sister Sarah just learned how to tie her shoes!  After praising Sarah for a moment, I turn back to Johnny, who has miraculously gotten over his issue and is happily pulling all the tupperware out of the cabinet drawers.

Having more kids teaches you to find ways to unwind by yourself.  I don't know if I have this mastered, but I do know that I understand how necessary it is to step back at times, and realize that if I leave the room for a moment, all will not be lost.  The kids better learn to fend for themselves and figure out how to manage without mamma hovering.  The article referenced letting go of making the perfect lunch for your kids, and going on a walk instead. I don't know how many walks I scoot out the door for, but I do know that I don't make my kids' lunches.  Even my five-year-old makes the bulk of hers.  Before you think I'm up for Loser Mom of the Year, don't fret - I am in the room and guiding their choices as they pack their lunches.  But it's their job, not mine.

Allowing only one extracurricular activity per child.    We are definitely in this camp, and have been for years.  The kids can play a sport or do an activity each season (and play an instrument or take music lessons), but they cannot do more than one at a time.  Travel teams are completely off the table (for many reasons), and the kids know it.  They are welcome to try just about any sport/activity they want, one at a time, in our community.  And I don't feel like they're lacking because of this rule.

The household is always exciting.  Er, that's one way to put it!  It's always loud, busy, in the throes of a project/game/dance party/fight etc.  There is always something going on.  And the kids always have playmates nearby.  And if they get annoyed with one sib? No problem!  There's always another one nearby who is willing to play.

When my first two kids were born, I read book after book about how to parent (full disclosure: I still read parenting books, albeit the nature of these books has changed over the years).  One method I fully subscribed to was nursing on a schedule, which was not the popular practice at the time.  My first two nursed every three hours, pretty much on the nose.  I LOVED the rhythm and schedule (that is my personality, even now), and I fully believed and they would thrive. And they did!  They both did just great on that schedule.  My third child was on a rigid hospital-mandated feeding schedule, so there was no room for my opinion in feeding him.  But by the time my fourth and fifth children were born, the feeding schedule was out the window.  If the baby cried, I didn't have time to try the swing, then the paci, then tummy-time, then the swing again.  If the baby cried, I nursed him.  Period. I remember vividly nursing my fourth while listening to my first grader read aloud her book of the day.  Have you ever listening to a first grader read aloud?  It is laborious.  There was no way I could have pacified the baby and listened at the same time.  So nurse him I did, and everyone was a winner, and there was peace in all of the land.  For about 10 minutes, anyway.

Parenting five children has taught me much about myself.  What is truly important to me in the way of parenting has risen to the surface.  My 7th grader went to school today with no coat, and one of my younger boys confessed to recently wearing the same socks for three days in a row over the snow days.  I have learned to pick my battles.  I want my children to be loving, caring, honest, compassionate and Christ-like people.  We are a work in progress.  Everything else is cake.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

12 days of Christmas

A few thoughts as Christmas break comes to a close*:

  • At the candlelight service on Christmas Eve, I looked over at an (unnamed) son, to see him holding his candle above his head.  "I'm the Statue of Liberty!", said he.  
  • We roller skated and ice skated to our hearts' content!  It was equal parts exhausting, wet, challenging and hysterical.  My husband and I held hands at the roller rink (and I even skated backward with him leading - impressed?) just like it was 1986.  One of the boys sailed by with his hand up toward us and rolled his eyes.  Score!
  • Waaaaay too much sugar has been consumed.  There is really nothing more to say about that.  It was fabulous, but it's gotta stop.
  • Our last gift to the kids on Christmas morning is that we are going to get a dog.  Tears of joy, faces full of disbelief, and screams of happiness ensued.  We have spent all the days since researching which type we should get.  I think we have settled in on a doodle.  Or a poo.  That's a poodle mix, by the way.  I am slightly obsessed with doodles - I have serious poomania.  And let me just tell you - poodles get around these days!  They have truly mated with just about every breed - and the result are totes adorbs.  Of course, those designer breeds cost mucho moola, and we are not looking to spend mucho.  So we are hoping a doodle or a poo will come available at a rescue and be the perfect 8th member of our family.
  • We have played games out the wazoo and laughed till our tummies hurt with our family.  We have enjoyed lots of great togetherness this break.
  • We bought gas for $1.57!!!  Did you see that?  I was freaking out with excitement!  Unreal!
  • Tomorrow morning, 5:45 is gonna hit us HARD.  I am sorry to see all of our good times come to close.  

*Actually, Christmas break was over on Friday at 3 pm.  Every break of my childhood consisted of my father reminding me of this fact on Friday afternoon.  I have carried on the tradition with my children and deflate them frequently with this news.