A year ago yesterday…

We drove out to a farm to pick out our new family puppy.

We selected the breeder specifically because they only have one litter a year which made us feel slightly better for abandoning the SPCA, which is where we found our last (AWESOME AND SORELY MISSED) dog, and what I still feel guilty about not repeating. We’ll be back for our next dog, SPCA!! Or Humane Society!! But my daughter was equal parts desperate for a dog + terrified of certain personality quirks, so we picked our breed carefully. And that brought us to that day a year ago.

We picked carefully through a squirming bunch of black female labs. (And I can hear you now. You chose your breed carefully. Because your daughter was terrified of certain personality quirks. And you chose the high energy lab puppy to bring home. Good one, Stephanie. But she is a sweetheart despite her earnest belief that she should always be able to jump up to execute an energetic bear hug or to lick any exposed piece of skin until it’s thoroughly pruney, or to act like a maniac whenever the mood strikes.) But I digress. As I was saying, we were there in the middle of a group of little, black females. Each one cuter than the next. Female, because they are supposed to be smaller. And she is a small lab, 14 months later. Black, because our last dog was a black lab mix. A very interesting mix. But there was definitely black lab in there. She was the sweetest dog, and I grieved for over a year when she died. It took me 5 years to be able to talk about her without tearing up. I don’t love my pets, I LOVE MY PETS. You can judge. I’ll give you a few moments.

So, we brought ribbons to tie around the necks of the pups so we could differentiate and make our decision easier. I can hear you snorting with laughter now. I’m snorting as well. But at the time, I thought it ingenious. And, of course, I did. It was my idea. So, we tied a green ribbon around one of the bigger girls who was a little charmer. She stole our heart and grabbed an early lead on the others. But that was before Curly set her sights on us. Curly received a ribbon early. I believe it was blue. She dispensed with it so quickly, I really can’t be sure. She was a little ball of energy and adorable mischief that you really couldn’t take your eyes off of, and she took over the top slot from Greenie. We decided to ignore the fact that she had removed the ribbon while looking at us disdainfully and gave her our hearts. We nicknamed her Curly since she was the only one with a curly tail. This helped differentiate her. But it became impossible to misidentify her as the afternoon progressed.

Since Curly was our pick, we settled in for a bit to watch her interact with her sisters. We just wanted to get some insight into her behavior, and we wanted to see when she would finally nap. HA! Curly decided that she needed to make sure this wasn’t a passive process from her side of things and began to test us. First, she made sure that she would be able to treat any other animals in the house as she pleased. Since she didn’t know if we had other pets, she just needed to see if we would stop her if she treated any of her sisters poorly. So, she began to assault them. Poor Greenie received some mistreatment and began to whine. Unfairly or not, we decided that Greenie wasn’t the pup for us should our love affair with Curly end due to the fact that her whining never really stopped from that point on. Curly pranced around the rest of her sisters and administered swats and kicks, charley horses and noogies, she stuck her tongue out, and body slammed most of them at least twice. She was pretty bloodthirsty. But we called her spirited in order to maintain our love for her.  So, she decided to administer another test. She began to eye my son, JT. And she eyed a big stack of newspapers placed behind him. She eyed him. She eyed the newspapers. Eyed him. The newspapers. Him. Newspapers. JT began to twitch slightly but held his ground because: puppy. What’s a little puppy going to do? And she launched herself. And hit him in the chest when she landed. A bit too low. She returned to her spot and eyed JT again. JT laughed. She eyed the newspapers. JT. Newspapers. JUMP. She landed on JT’s chest again. JT laughed, but this time there was less humor and a little bit of internal thought that we could all hear, “WTH is going on with this puppy? Is she possessed? I’m a little scared of her now. I don’t want to admit that though because she’s tiny. She can’t hurt me at all. BUT SHE’S CLEARLY NOT SANE!” Curly returned to her spot. JT. Newspapers. JT. Newspapers. JT began to twitch. Curly jumped OVER JT and landed on the newspapers. We all looked at each other and IMMEDIATELY back at Curly because who knew what she would do next but surely it would include garroting one of us with some twine she had found binding the newspapers. Opposable thumbs be damned.

We all silently agreed to fall out of love with Curly and to select from the small bundle of puppies slumbering peacefully beside us. We pointed at one of the three that looked small and heartbreakingly adorable. Matthew picked her up and she continued to sleep peacefully. The decision was made. And Lexi joined our family.

Pictures!!

The pup pile with Lexi in the green collar
The pup pile with Lexi in the green collar
Can you almost see that pup belly?
Can you almost see that pup belly?
Lexi's Mum
Lexi’s Mum
Lexi's GrandMum
Lexi’s GrandMum
Lexi's first car ride to her new home
Lexi’s first car ride to her new home

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Lexi's a big girl now.
Lexi’s a big girl now.

I’m not informed enough to be a parent.

Good grief! So, I have to talk to the kids about the dangers of spices now, too? I’m not up to this parenting task, and I’m trying not to panic here. The realization that this Cinnamon Challenge has been a thing for years and I’m just hearing about it now is just another thing to keep me awake at night. It’s like the tip of the iceberg. What am I not hearing about that my kids might be exposed to before I can prepare them to deal with it. Some days it’s really too much and the worry just paralyzes me. This is one of those days because now it’s a spice. A SPICE! It’s impossible to anticipate where the next danger lies.

That was probably the wrong video to include since it seems so tame and funny. The other videos I watched weren’t funny at all particularly when coupled with the reports linking this to pneumonia and lung damage.

Gender roles? Nah, we just play to our individual strengths.

We had some people over for dinner a few weeks ago, and as I sat on my ineffective ass in the den entertaining the guests I wondered if they were thrown off by the fact that I didn’t help out at all with dinner. Matthew did everything on his own. If you subscribe to stereotypes, I should have been in the kitchen getting dinner ready while Matthew entertained our guests. But if we had gone that route, dinner would have been quite an interesting affair. The guests arrive at 7. At 8:45, I ask if anyone is hungry. Everyone turns to me with the look of someone who has been looking around the room for anything edible and has now begun to consider that the magazines on the adjacent table would do in a pinch with a condiment chaser. And I say, “Great! The sides are ready! The entree will be ready in an hour.” Timing is not my forte when I’m socializing, and it’s kinda critical when you’re feeding people dinner, at least in my experience. They seem to expect to be served the entire dinner at the same time. This got me thinking about how we handle things in our household and how we let individual strengths dictate who does what. Just a few examples:

  • Discipline is man’s work in the stereotypical world, right? Not here. It’s all me, baby. Look at that face in the About Me section. Scary, right? Now add in a major frown and some serious ‘tude. MUCH scarier. Makes you want to run and hide under a blanket somewhere or run from the house screaming, amirite? And you haven’t even heard me all shouty.
  • Homework/schoolwork stuff is mostly me (unless it’s a math concept that I am too tired to try to grasp and I sic Matthew on it). This makes the most sense because I’m around the most to help with it, but I also keep track of it better. Which is a touch scary since keeping track of that type of thing isn’t exactly one of my strengths. Hi, Mrs. K. 🙂
  • Coaching the kids’ sports is all Matthew because I should not be allowed anywhere near kids’ sports in a coaching role. I don’t take it seriously enough. And I’m too invested. Totally contradictory, right? But what I mean is, I never take it seriously enough when they miss a practice, but when it’s game time I get completely upset when the other team does something that’s unsportsmanlike or that appears to bend the rules in some way. I’m a complete nut!
  • Laundry? We share this one. OK, I’m better at it. He would disagree. And I would disagree with his disagreement. But, moving on.
  • Cleaning the house is a shared task. We both seem to focus on different things, so it’s a good system. We both loathe cleaning, but who doesn’t?
  • Cleaning dishes is a shared task, too. But I think the person who invented the dishwasher is a person to whom I’d like to give a giant bear hug.
  • Vomit? That’s all Matthew. In fact anything of an excretion-type nature is going to fall to him. I’m going to be gagging in a corner all, “I can’t, I just…..no, really. I need to take a shower RIGHT now.” There are many vomit incidents and one INFAMOUS poo incident that to this day make me turn a bit green if I let my mind really explore those memories. In one of the vomit incidents, I took 5 showers within a 2 hour period. 3 of the showers were taken because vomiting was occurring in my vicinity and I thought there was a small chance that it somehow made it onto my person. The other 2 showers I can’t talk about. I just can’t focus on that. The poo incident is LEGENDARY and, if I receive written approval from all involved parties, I may post that tale as it was quite amusing in hindsight. I will say in my defense that I’m doing my share of poop-scooping when it comes to the dog. But, that’s about all I can say in my defense.

Hmmm, looks like we share most tasks. That’s a pretty great deal.

Today forward, I will strive to be the best version of myself.

After yesterday’s tragic event, all I want to do is gather my people close and hug and kiss them: to be more present and engaged when I’m with them and to consistently do better by them.

And because I want to be a happier and more positive person every day, I must block out the toxic messages of the entitled who, though they seem to be ubiquitous, really are not, and embrace with everything that I am messages such as this. That post is hopeful and inspiring, and I want to be the type of person who could write such a post.

To my family, I love you all!

Nothing says Easter like competition!

We celebrated Easter at my parent’s home. We began the festivities with a wonderful meal prepared by my mother. As is typical with meals my mother prepares, during it we were subjected to comments from her about how everything tasted merely ok or fell short somehow. And we all finished the bites we were chewing with pleasure and said, “What are you talking about? This is fantastic.” Or, “I love these collards! What’s the recipe?” Or, “The meat is so tender and flavorful. How long did you cook it?” Eventually, we just mumbled something affirmative or remained silent so as to continue shoveling the delicious food into our mouths. If we are pressed, we might be able to find only one fault with my mother’s cooking. Sometimes the food is not steaming hot by the time we eat it, though it is when it’s served. We must be entertaining for Matthew (who doesn’t share this aberration) to observe as we mill about uselessly when the food is laid out buffet-style ready to be served. We stand around expectantly but nobody fills their plates. Eventually my mother looks around at us as she is putting the finishing touches on gravy or some other condiment and says exasperatedly, “Fix your plates,” and we finally jump to action. So, yeah, the food might lose a bit of heat during that interminable time when we stand around like a bunch of fools chattering to each other.

We have an Easter tradition that involves racing items that typically rely less on skill for the win than they do on sheer happenstance. Prizes are awarded to race winners and a good time is had by all. Past racing items have included wind-up toys that make you want to cry as you determine after you have picked them in the blind selection system that they are reverse movers or move forward and then crush your soul with a last minute shift to the left/right. This year my parents decided to make the race a little more skill-based, so we raced remote-controlled cars with a trophy waiting at the finish line for the winner of the race. I had a bum car and, I can only assume, a devilish, teeny tiny little driver in there who overrode all my remote commands, so I didn’t place in the race. You may call me a lying liar, but those are the facts. My daughter had some luck with the car, but she was bested by her uncle because he is a cold-hearted man who couldn’t let his niece winMy dad had a slow and steady approach that was no match for my son’s blistering speeds. My mother did not get to participate in the practice heats, and I suspect that my devil driver snuck into her car to run her heat. As such, she was similarly unsuccessful. The race for the championship was between Greg and JT, and it was a hotly contested battle. Ultimately, my son won the race. He was a humble winner (HAH!) and enjoyed the trophy ceremony at which he thankfully did NOT make a speech.

We rounded out the day with a “friendly” ping pong tournament. The weather was fair (inside), the concessions were reasonably-priced (read: free) and delicious, and the fans were tolerable. I won’t mention that Matthew had left to go home and let out the pooch who was probably crossing her legs in the crate hoping desperately that someone would be home RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW I HAVE TO PEE. And I won’t mention that Matthew is possibly as good as my mother. I don’t know if we have established a clear winner between the two of them. I will say that we had a bunch of good ping pong players represented that day, and I managed to best two of ’em and was handily beaten by my mother in the final round. She’s got skilz.

All photos taken by my brother Greg. You can find his work at Bluegoo Studios.

Attention canines: A call to action!

This is Lexi. I hijacked her blog temporarily because things are dire here. I’m an adorable puppy and I don’t appear to be getting my way. And by all accounts I’m at the height of my adorableness. So, you do the math. If I’m not getting my way now, the future looks very grim my friends.

Here’s the situation. I was taken to that place again. I initially thought I liked the place upon first meeting the people there. So friendly!! I was immediately offered a very tasty treat. But friends I must tell you that while I was enjoying that treat something very nasty was taking place around my hindquarters. They were placing an object in an area that things were not meant to be placed. I lunged forward with an obvious physical indicator of “HELLO, that is UNWELCOME,” but, alas, they continued with that unpleasantness. They offered me another treat, and while I hesitantly enjoyed it, a NEEDLE was jammed into my body!! Listen, it’s just unseemly the things that take place there while my family members look on as if all is just fine and dandy. Well guess what? It is anything but fine and dandy which I attempt to convey to my idiot family members with a myriad of puppy expressions, but those fools do not come to my aid. Now on to the latest injustice that occurred just a few days ago. I was listening in as they discussed me and in between all the blah blah blah she bites A LOT blah blah blah she seems to destroy toys at a rate previously unknown to veterinary science blah blah blah, I distinctly heard this: When should we move her to two meals a day? HOLY SHIT, friends! What fresh hell is this? They are going to stop feeding me; do you believe this madness? Circle the wagons!!!!! And I hear you all now. You want me to calm down and understand that they will feed me the same amount each day just portion it into fewer meals. But listen. I’M A LAB!!!! I WANT TO EAT ALL DAY LONG. THE ONLY THING KEEPING ME SANE IS LISTENING TO THE SWEET SOUND OF FOOD LANDING IN MY FOOD BOWL AND SUBSEQUENTLY DEVOURING THAT FOOD WHOLE. I see no future in a two meal a day schedule for me. I feel that three meals a day was a low bar in the first place, but I was forced to accept it since I wasn’t able to negotiate a better deal. And look where that complacency got me! I am now looking to you, my canine friends, for help. I expect your support, and I hope I can count on you to ration your food so that you may subsidize my meals. I will be in touch to discuss a delivery method and schedule.