Am, not Was

I would like to remind myself, who has been feeling very bummed that I wasn’t more mature as a child, that I have changed for the better since becoming an adult.

To point:

-I manage all of our family finances, and have for the past 8 years.  I get all the bills paid, the taxes in on time, and manage our budget. 

-I have only bought one loaf of bread in the past 4 months because I committed to making our bread from scratch. 

-I plan all of our family vacations, buy airfare, and pack, prioritizing family visits above all else.

-I feed 4 children, dress 3, diaper 2, and nurse 1 every day.  I have been nursing or pregnant for the past 7 years.  Or a combined 99 months.  Every day.

-I have cloth diapered for nearly three years.

-I have been working out consistently for the past 2 years straight, even when it means waking up at 5:20AM to meet my running buddy at 6AM when it’s 38 degrees and drizzly.

-I have maintained friendships that are 15 years old.

-I have made and given at least as many meals as I have received.

-I have held a job that required my college degree, and did it well. 

-I canned more than 100 jars for Christmas gifts this year.

-I committed to a parenting style and stuck with it when it was harder on the parents than the kids. 

-I have maintained relationships with family even when it seemed impossible.

-I forgive unconditionally.

-I know and relate the provenance of every recipe I ever make and pass along the story with the food, because people make food better (in the least soylent green way possible).

-I stood by my commitment to God, my husband, and community to honor my marriage vows.  Every day.  For the past seven and a half years.  Without excuse.  Without exception.

-I have maintained this blog for two years.  My words have been accessed more than 5000 times.

In fairness, things I always will suck at:

-Keeping the house in bristol fashion.

-Being a morning person.

-Remembering birthdays.

-Tending the garden after August.

-Losing weight.

-Reading the Bible.

-Giving my kids my full attention when I am writing or reading something compelling (though I am capable of avoiding such things because I am, indeed, quite disciplined).

-Being on time when my kids are anywhere near me.

So, I couldn’t wake up or do my homework consistently when I was a kid.  So, I never finished sending out the thank you cards from our wedding.  So my husband does the dishes and is wonderful and that gives me a warped perception of my improvement.

All of these things may be true, but I am the woman I am now.

Please stop sobering me with the harsh reality of my imperfect personality.  Trust me, I’m sober.  I am as good as my word.  And my word might be late, but it is good.

I am not who I once was.

In other news, we will be doing a trial of homeschooling for Cal for the next two weeks.  Yes, I am scared I won’t be good enough, that we have too many little ones to do this well, and that we’ll send the wrong message.  This is still the best option.  This is what my husband, whose words you never hear, so must think I invent, and I have decided.  We need everyone rooting for us.  We’re not doing this to be trendy, or difficult.

Please keep us in your prayers,  and especially Cal, as we risk our peace again to spare nothing for the best interest of our children.  If we don’t when we can, how can we look ourselves in the mirror every day?

I also can no longer be found on Facebook, so please send any correspondence to biglittledays@gmail.com.  Birth anxiety and self-destructive parenting lovingly beaten into submission free of charge, as always.

Good Dog

I was not raised as a dog person. Our dogs were never allowed in the house and we never knew what putting one down would be like, because, well, they all ran away. And I wouldn’t have blamed them.

Here’s my little secret: there is nothing better to me than the sight of a man and his well-trained dog, riding shotgun in an old pick-up truck. Or a boy wandering in the woods with his leashless companion, seeking adventure. Or a forbearing old pup with her ears over her head in a hair clip, the honored guest at a tea party. Or never having to clean the high chair out after dinner.

I am a dog person.

My Auntie Jay, however, is the queen bee of dog people. Her dog, J, was the best collie in the history of mankind. He left such a hole when he died, she didn’t even consider another dog for 10 years. When a skinny, shy shepherd/collie mix needed a home, like a true dog lover, she said “for a few days.” The rest is history, and Belly Button became the dog that was just meant to be. Seriously, I loved that dog, not just for who she was, but because she was the dog that healed a dog lover’s broken heart. And, she was a saint. She guessed what A. Jay wanted before A. Jay even knew.

The incomparable Belly Button

As BB got older, my aunt fell in love with a sheltie, Miss E, and brought her home. When Belly Button died a year later, Miss E, while not a pre-trained savant, was a balanced, stable dog, who got into a little trouble. Add a rescued collie to the mix a bit later, and my Aunt now has a pack again of quirky, delightful, if sometimes mischievous, dogs.

So, when our beloved Great Dane/Lab Mix, Banana, grew older, we realized, we were not responsible at all for her good behavior and pleasant demeanor. Banana came to us from the pound, 2 years old, all but trained. She was goofy on a leash, and didn’t know how to sit, but she was mostly potty trained, didn’t jump up, and never ran away.

Our forbearing Banana, putting the "great" in Great Dane/Lab mix

When we x-rayed her hips last year, and saw they were rapidly deteriorating, we put her on some heavy-duty, pricey pain medication and supplements, and started thinking about saying goodbye. I would not allow a dog of ours to suffer, as I had seen so many do in our family’s veterinary practice. But, our family could not be without a dog, and a new baby (Hoss) was on the way. I liked the idea of getting a puppy that Banana could train as her successor.

I calculated this would leave us with a one month window to get a new dog as the stars aligned: morning sickness must have subsided, Banana would train her as much as possible, 4 months to potty train deadline (before the baby came), oh, and a puppy at our itty bitty, underfunded animal control. And did I mention, I wanted a medium-sized Brittany spaniel? Female. Pssh, shouldn’t be so hard.

Well, wouldn’t you know it? On November 30 of last year, a litter of Brittany/Pit bull mix pups had been dropped off. All had been adopted or sent to the puppy adoption center an hour away, except one little girl, who was on hold for three days. We put our name second in line, and waited.

I worried myself sick about bringing the much-maligned pit bull anything in our house, and talked it out with my brother-in-law, the vet. He had no reservations, and said he worries more about a poorly trained shit-zhu. A friend pointed me to this reassuring website in the meantime: Saving the St. Francis Terrier. These dogs have extremely high pain tolerance, and have always been considered family pets–shocking, huh? Ok, red light went to yellow. Besides, I had done some temperament exercises, and she passed with flying colors. So, when we got the call, I was ready for another magical rescue animal experience from our $60 pound puppy.

And the reality, is, well, slightly more work than we had anticipated. We crated her, and became the pack leaders pretty easily. We have her kennel in the living room, and she’s not allowed upstairs. She is kind with the children, and tolerates all manner of abuse from the newly mobile Hoss. She is shamelessly adorable, inheriting all of the best qualities of both breeds.

Puppy Love

From her Pit side, she is smooth coated, has muscle-y little legs, has a high pain tolerance, doesn’t hate cats, and is remarkably trainable. From her Brittany side, she has a soft mouth (granted we worked on this almost obsessively her first few months-jamming our hands in her food bowl and inserting our fingers in her mouth while she was chewing a toy), boxy ears and dainty face, and a fascinating slow-motion point/stalking of the unfortunate squirrels that wander into our backyard.

But, our dear Monkey has a slight chewing problem. Mr. BLD has begun to refer irreverently to another of Cal’s chewed fashion dolls as “Landmine Barbie” (the most prolific of all Barbies here). She is actually well potty-trained, but loves to dig in the backyard. She doesn’t bark much, but runs away (as our many helpful neighbors know). She loves to ride in the car, but won’t walk on a leash. She loves people, but jumps up when they first come over.

Actually, that’s a lot of “but’s.” So, I picked up a copy of Cesar Millan’s “How to Raise the Perfect Dog” on audiobook, and we have been inspired. When Monkey gets worried, I tend to be more strict on her, assuming I am being a better pack leader. Actually, I am just scaring her. What we learned is to use scent (our dogs’ most important sense) to snap her out of a “deer in the headlights” response.

So when Monkey balked going outside yesterday (I have been making her sit first, and sometimes she just freezes 10 feet from the door, obviously confused), I grabbed the nearest smelly thing I could find. After waving the stick of my husband’s travel-sized deodorant under her nose, she was able to focus, and came and sat before I let her out. It was a little crazy, actually.

When we had attempted walks, she was overwhelmed by constant correction as we tried to keep her beside us instead of out in front. Cesar suggested carrying an umbrella to create a physical barrier, and Monkey has gone on two nighttime walks in the past two days, with the leash floating loosely next to her.

We have established her main problem comes from us. I am actually okay with that, as it means I can fix this. We have been letting her out in the back yard as her only exercise, and occasional trips to the dog park. Combined with our attempts at leadership training, we have been leaving her feeling confused, if not overwhelmed by our inconsistency.

When we adopted this dog, we made a promise to keep her healthy and take care of her. Now we have the skills to do better, channelling her natural medium-high energy level with a goal of two daily attentive walks, using her nose to focus her, and as a result, including her in more of our lives. I can’t wait.

Intuitively trained dogs like Banana and Belly Button are once in a lifetime companions. But, I’m starting to believe that, even though our efforts need to be more deliberate, our Monkey might fool everybody into thinking she’s a natural.

She is, after all, a very good dog.

Our Monkey. I'm a little bit Brittany, I'm a little bit Pit Bull

The Little Pig

This morning I went out to the car to get the carbon monoxide detector my sister got us for Christmas. When I tried to get back in the house, Lumpy had closed and locked the door.

When I told her to let me in, she yelled back:

“Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!”

Oh my.
20120103-093358.jpg

I counted her to one.

“No way Jose!”

However, timeout threats and two got her to back down.

Click. “Saw-wree mom.”

“It’s ok, I forgive you.”

Hmm, I’m thinking pork for dinner…

One Day Today

There are two stories from the Bible that always get mashed together for me.  The story of the sinner washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them on her hair, and annointing him with gads of precious perfume.  The disciples are so focused on the mission (to do good) they are ticked off about the precious money the perfume could have bought to feed the poor.  Jesus corrects them, and changes the point of the mission from accomplishment, to doing right by God.

And then, there’s the story of Martha and Mary, where Jesus visits their home and Mary ditches the work and sits at his feet listening.  Martha is killing herself to get the house in order and the meal ready, and Jesus refuses to chastise Mary, in fact saying she chose the best thing.

Sometimes, doing everything is not wrong, but not the best.  Sometimes wasting something precious is annointing, restoring, healing, sealing, strengthening us to do Godly work.

Sometimes our lives are drudgery, monotony, pain, loneliness.

And one day, even in our time on earth, there is respite.  There is shelter, there is renewal.

No matter the cost, sometimes, we take the chance.  Risk the waste.

This may not be that day to waste to bring abundance, a good measure, tamped down and overflowing.

But, one day, it will be.

This song tells about the basic, ingrained human longing for peace.  Sure, the song is more easily interpreted to be about world peace, but maybe it’s about internal peace, too.  Imagine your life with no more wars, you will fight no more, and your offspring (talents, time, energy, dreams) will play…instead of be a burden.  Listen, and know that you are worth so much more than time.  Or money.  Or human recognition.  Or the right thing.

You are destined for all this.  Peace.  Happiness.  Abundance.  Healing.  Restoration.

Because a whole person will seek and give the love God put in their hearts so much better than somebody just clinging to the rails, doing everything right.  But, even useless, you would be worth it.

What can’t you let go of in pursuit of this life?  That is the thing that is separating you from God.  That doesn’t make it all bad (though it may be), just way too powerful in your life.  Like I tell my kids, a good grown-up would never make you break Mommy and Daddy’s rules.  Pare away the excess until you can see God in that part of your life again…and see what happens.

All your life you’ve been waiting for, you’ve been praying for, this day.  One day is what is coming.  Let that fill you with joy.  It was meant to.

Want to learn more about the singer of this song?  He is a man actively seeking God’s heart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matisyahu 

Martha and Mary: See Luke 10, Sinner pouring perfume: Matthew 26, good measure overflowing: Luke 6

Sorry if this is weak writing, deliberately vague, but it’s written for someone I love.  If you have found your one day, no matter your faith, would you write a comment below?  Add the detail to make these words real.