2016

Yikes! Last year’s reflection was pretty dramatic but I’m afraid to echo it slightly. 2016 was the last year for a lot of people. Some well known celebrities, others just as important to people close to me. 

Three 35 year old women, three different ways of death. When January brought a home invasion shooting death of a former student, it was an eye opener of how bad Rockford can be. I would think of the small acts of kindness I extended, like the nights I’d bring her home instead of letting her ride the bus. A couple trips to the store to pick up a random item. I’d smile thinking about that one time she’d stood a little TOO close to the Walmart bag carousel…or the way she’d say ‘You better tell Joe to lay off those cigarettes!’ 

The second woman died by suicide. I would think of the small acts of kindness I could have extended. I’ll smile when I remember the moment I saw her as a little spunky child dancer and years later when our paths crossed when I had my own little spunky child dancer….or the surreal talk show phase we went through. Her talent and how hard she must have fought to be here in this world is not lost on me.  I think about her family still in this world and all those individuals affected by mental health. Which is basically ALL of us…everyday in some form or another.

The third woman lost her life to cancer, and though I didn’t know her well, she was like a sister to my sister. I think of the kids she left behind. I think of how hard it is to watch a gradual decline of health.

Still many others, a teenage cousin, a cousin and aunt in their 90s, a childhood friend’s father, pets in a house fire.

The list of celebrities is long. Icons from our childhood. Then the local headlines with the shooting death of 15 year olds becoming more common when bullets fly overhead like mosquitos. News that has made me more aware of social cultural issues and crime. 

But a glimmer of hope always as I look ahead to 2017. Yes, death is inevitable so life is precious. Might be short, might be long. Each of us has a different story. 

So, what’s in store for 2017? Some things we can control, some we can’t. 

 Oh wait…how did the Presential  election slip through my blog post cracks? Hillary Clinton the first female candidate and President elect Donald Trump. It gave everybody something to talk about.

And the Cubs winning the World Series after 108 years! Game 7 captured the attention and hearts of so many die hard and even the fickle at of fans. So exciting to see the joy that brought.

My own personal 2016? Things that happened directly to me? I started (another) job in February. Working in the mother/baby unit of a hospital allows me the chance to see new life and new beginnings every day. Even the smallest preemies in the isolettes working hard to be here. 

I turned ’40’ which I graciously do realize it is a milestone. My kids are all a year older and they are healthy. We got a kick out of watching our oldest dance his way to 2nd place at the school district talent show and now he’s driving (though not but himself until June which buys me some time!) My nine year old made his First Holy Communion, 12 year old smack dab in the middle of middle school, and as the youngest turns 7 I realize that time does pick up.(..you just have to wait until after preschool mamas). We’ve taken a few local trips, overnight at Galena, couple at the Dells. Just enough to have some time away but come home to our 3 dogs who anxiously await us.

My family, friends, neighbors, even the random people I encounter during the day, at work, out with the kids, on social media. The connections that I gain to counterbalance the disconnect. The neighbors who drop off Christmas treats the day home repairs make me grumpy. The student who shows up dilligently to my class, despite being relocated to a hotel due to a house fire. The other student who shares a personal story of her sister’s drunk driving death with me after class, reminding me why I stay in adult education. It’s not always about the topics in the syllabus. 

As we flip the calendar (and maybe the bird) from 2016 to 2017, I pray that you and I will be open and present in 2017. Aware of our blessings, gracious during our setbacks. 

Happy New Year!💜

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Public Outing Outcry Problems: A.K.A. “Oh poop”

Public Outing Outcry Problems: A.K.A. “Oh Poop!”

 

I walked into the place a little too cocky…that was my problem. Like we were the T-Birds and Pink Ladies, we were going to ‘Rule the School’..or child related establishment. Long gone were the diaper bag days of old, the days of worrying about what to feed or where, letting a naptime kill the play buzz, concerns about baby wipe moisture or promises of M&Ms for a urine sample…no we had arrived…EASY street.

 

With children 6-15 years old this was going to be cake. We had already arrived a little past 3:00pm, perfect because the place would close at 5. Just enough time to ease the ‘fun mom’ inner nag for the day. Since I had somehow squeezed winter break funds into a one year membership there was no need to bring in my wallet…because there was no need for money…RIGHT?!   Little did I know all the while that tooth fairy money had been burning a hole in the back of my jeans. That $1 bill given to me to hold had been a TRAP.

 

It is a policy for fun kids places to have a store near the exit. As a reminder to your children that you are cheap and suddenly… I will quote my daughter “Not my bestest Mom anymore!”.   It becomes no concern to them how much money you have blown up to this point because if you really loved them you would spend $30 on a $10 toy. Because every outing needs a souvenir better than the taste of salty tears.

 

Suddenly every parent that I had just seen leave, every “It’s starting to snow really bad and we need to get home”…”We are LEAVING”…”We have to go…NOW” morphed into urgency. I could feel the winds change as I realize that my pressing logic that $1 would only buy a 4 pack of mints or 1 sucker to share between 2 was not sinking in. My ‘I didn’t bring in my wallet’ honesty was falling on deaf ears.

 

Perhaps a more docile child would be happy window shopping and a more docile me could use my versed child development script and say, “You really want that toy, but we only brought $1..we’ll buy it next time…let’s go home and have hot chocolate!” We would all skip out hand and hand and I would smile and wave at the young desk girl showing her my expertise in being the ‘most bested mom’. Then to top it off my 6 year old would turn to me and say, “I’m sorry Mom clearly I let material things distract me from my undying love for you”. 

Didn’t happen…

 

In the end it doesn’t matter how we left because what matters is that we did leave. In the parking lot when my daughter declared me not to be ‘her best mom anymore’ I reminded her that she would change her mind and I would be later. The snow fell hard, we had a close call with a rushing ambulance, and stomach in my throat I was jolted back to what really mattered most. We had a nice family dinner and when my humanness started to rehash to say, “Now next time…” my 8 year old quickly redirected me. Apparently he had a brief meeting with the 6 year old in her room and the mood was lifted.

 

As a parent you will come across situations that make you think, “Seriously…Aren’t we past this?” Clearly we have paid our dues and have graduated past this, but then some hidden fee pops up and we revisit an earlier… less sophisticated time.

Not quite out of the woods yet, but will pack a better picnic basket next time.

 

 

 

 

K-9 Mom

K-9 Mom

Written By: Andrea Angileri
This could be a post about my role as pack leader to my 3 adopted dogs…or even a spin on my ‘Mama Bear’ post…but it’s not. K-9 Mom marks the arrival of my new stage in life where…at the moment…my youngest child is in Kindergarten and my oldest is in 9th. The youngest was clingy in the Kindergarten line at first, but as expected she is thriving.  My oldest is also as expected thriving and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching his undefeated freshman soccer team this season.  My middles are in 2nd and 6th. Sixth grade is the ‘new’ middle school…though I can see why when I was a child having sixth grade as a grade school level was a good thing. It was a good thing because as I was one of the youngest in my class it gave me one more year in my comfort zone before I would be thrust on a bus stop corner caring about more important global matters…like Guess jeans and Benetton sweatshirts and what time to wake up and do my hair the next day. Luckily for me, my sixth grader wears a uniform and could give two cacas about brand names…however life would be easier if he remembered to bring the right materials to his assorted classes and hyperfocused on his teachers as much as he does to YouTube.

Even luckier for me one of my kids is in plain regular 2nd grade. With one starting Kindergarten, one starting middle school, and one starting high school….it’s good to just have one starting plain regular 2nd grade. Though it really has been interesting starting the year with two subs before his ‘real’ teacher comes back from maternity leave. God bless subs and teachers coming back from maternity leave. With one job ending a strike, one job delayed for budget cuts, one job postponed due to restructuring training format, and one job between trimesters, I’ve had a little time to volunteer in the kindergarten classroom. I really have enjoyed my 1 hour in the room…but probably most because it is one hour. They are really cute in small doses. I love children and sometimes I love the thought of them…and sometimes I love the thought of them in school.

Looking now at the calendar I can see that the kids have been in school for exactly one month. So…what’s life like for a K-9 mom? How have things ‘changed’?

Every day I have 3 ½ more hours of ‘free time’ than I had last school year. This means I can actually eat, clean, think, work through the 10:40 a.m. preschool pick-up, etc. It’s great…except when it’s totally overrated.
Last week, I declared that I would ‘lose myself’ in the task of cleaning out my car. The dogs were in the backyard (I have mentioned that they are like children..right?) a little whiny , but I pressed on thinking, “Isn’t it nice that I don’t have to pay attention to the time?…I can just totally lose myself in this task.” I stepped away for some reason and spotted not 1 but 2 of my dogs had got loose and were running down the street. Somehow they had pushed open the side garage door and ran right past me! I was able to get Bailey a.k.a ‘Mama’s Boy’ back with ease…but Lucky…well we know how stubborn Beagles can be. So…I leave..mid car clean with a bowl of stirfry and a leash down the street…which leads to a capture…which leads to a walk. I was planning to walk the dogs..just not this way exactly…with a bowl of stirfry and no plastic bags to pick up waste…and one of my car doors left wide open.

September is my birthday/anniversary month. I spent my birthday with a nice lunch date with my sister and ended the night with a complimentary facial. On my anniversary I will do what I typically do an such special occasions…take the kids to school, volunteer for a bridal show set-up, pick kids up, and post a lovey dovey post on Facebook.

On a more serious note September carried some tragic neighborhood news for me. The kind of news that reminds you that though sometimes you can see the signs, tragedy cannot always be prevented…neither is it supposed to. Nothing to do now but to remain as I’ve always been…compassionate for my neighbors. It’s not even that I had considered myself emotionally close to my neighbors…though we do physically practically share a driveway. I’ve always seen the best in them and, as you do sometimes, felt like I was rooting for the at-risk youth in a way that was not naïve, but just hopeful. 

So thus ends an extremely long blog post. It’s ok if you haven’t made it to the end. Trust me, I’ve considered letting my WordPress account lapse and keep the $18 for the year to help me pay for school picture (My God why are they so expensive!). I’ve even considered just journaling and maybe my grandkids would read it, though unlikely because they are probably too busy wearing headphones, and heavy goggles for their cyber-reality video game systems to really care what some old lady had to say. Looking forward to moving on to more K-9 mom insights as we head into month 2.

When the Elsa Braid Begins to Fade

Written by: Andrea Angileri

She woke up the other day and grabbed the hair brush on my dresser. I watched her carefully brush through her newly trimmed hair and fling her hair back swiftly to head off to the next more important thing. Somedays she’ll ask me to put an ‘Elsa braid’ in, one single haphazard braid that will swing on a designated side of her neck….but not today. Today she will ask me to paint her fingernails in a pink..purple…pink..purple pattern ….I oblige. When we came to terms with the fact that a haircut would be easier to avoid summer snarls, she commented “Cut it like Jillian’s on EvanTube” and used her small hand to make a karate chop motion towards her upper neckline….I didn’t quite oblige.
I sit with her in her room and we play ‘Christmas Morning’. I pretend to be asleep and she sticks random belongings into a box and I feign surprise and excitement as I go through the odd arrangement of toy hoard. A ‘Frozen’ microphone, a hot pink dolphin, a Hello Kitty jewelry box jammed with plastic wristbands, a lunchbox jammed with McDonald’s toys. It’s a rainy summer day, so there is less rushing. I realize that we can repeat this routine for hours and the boys will be content to entertain each other. They are busy with their Minecraft, YouTube and music. I’ll be sought out if somebody wants a pizza..or if the sun comes out. I know that the dishwasher is sloshing and the dryer is tumbling and everything else will still be there. I pet Bailey, one of our Cocker Spaniels. He is the only dog who finds this imaginative little girl play amusing, probably because he hung around the young girl of his previous owner.
I realize that one day, this will only be a memory… the little girl, the pretend play, the toy clutter, even the dog. It makes the moment so much more bittersweet. I’ll remind myself to just appreciate the moment. It’s June…the summer is optimistically young. I realize that in two short months she will be skipping off to full day Kindergarten.
Just the fact that I chose the word ‘skipping’ probably says a lot. It says that I am hopeful…and frankly, equipped for the next chapter. On the upside, it will be the first time I will actually not be required to get OUT of my car for school drop offs. Sure, it sounds a little ‘lady that doesn’t need to be in a motorized scooter at Walmart-ish’…but…I’ve paid my dues.
And yet… a whole new chapter. No daily 10:40 a.m. pick-ups, no lunch dates, no ‘Take Me to Nana’s’ pick-up announcement. My five year old will soon blend in with her brothers for school day drop-offs and pick-ups. That occasional 3 ½ hour chunk of one-on-one time will be have to be more strategically carved out on weekends and summer breaks. Soon she will want to be more social and bring in a whole new cast of characters into her life. She’ll declare that ‘Elsa braids are for babies’ and that too will fade. I have four children, so it’s not that I’m a stranger to watching the baby fat slenderize. My oldest at 14 is now eye level to myself. He’s as much of the worlds as he is mine. I must say that having four children has helped me take the sting out of letting go…slightly.

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She won’t remember sitting on the floor playing with her little purple and white plastic dollhouse. He won’t remember sitting on the floor playing with his Thomas the Tank Engine set. He won’t remember lining up his cars strategically in rows as he plays with the parking garage. He won’t remember his early interest in flipping pancakes in the kitchen, but I will. I’ll know that whenever memories fall short, digital memory holds firm. The photographs, the video footage, and yes…even all of the ranting and raving and oversharenting on social media. A reminder of who they were when they were small and who noticed.

A Typical Thursday

A Typical Thursday
Written By: Andrea Angileri, Ed.S

I realized during a #ThrowbackThursday post that over two decades ago a typical Thursday would be spent like this:
8 a.m. to 3 p.m. high school
Home to change and eat
4-9pm part-time job at local grocery store (in the bakery department)

This got me thinking that I would do a quick anecdotal –like rundown of a random Thursday…two decades later.
5:00 a.m. Wake up, make coffee, take care of dogs, watch ‘Mom’ t.v.

6:00 a.m. Say ‘Good morning’ to first kid awake, switch T.V. to ‘Spongebob’

Kid falls back asleep on couch, change back to ‘Mom’ T.V.

6:40-7:25 Wake up kids, get ready for school/work, leave

8:00 All kids at school, drive 30 minutes for CDA Verification visit

Go to Wal-mart for baby shower gifts and price check for baby shower game

10:40 Pick up preschooler (child #1), no food monitoring visits today, so preschooler comes home with me (she protests).

Home to shower and get in comfortable clothes, eat lunch, keep preschooler busy, take care of dogs, laundry, dishwasher,

work emails, scan and send ‘advising contact log’ papers, enter CDA visit, post a previously written blog post, goof around on Facebook, watch 10

minutes of ‘Super Soul Sunday’

2:10-2:25 Pick up child #2 and #3

Get back into dress clothes, makeup

3:00 Pick up child #4

Homework, dinner prep, stock handouts for weekend training, distract kids from ‘Can we go to park, dollar store, Nana’s house?’ demands, it will be the first day of the week we don’t go to the park.

5:00 Drop off kids at Nana’s house

5:30 Get to community college where I teach as adjunct, make copies, avoid room (as we are having a student-led ‘surprise baby shower’ for two pregnant students).6-8p.m. Surprise baby shower, teacher evaluations, announcements, make-up tests, answering questions, grading, filing

8:40 Home….but where is everybody? Tend to dogs and try to track family down, realize husband had late meeting, pick up kids at ‘Nana and Nanu’s’ house.

9:00 Get home with kids, in walks husband, catch up on his day, type this up

9:45 Publish this and then ‘Mom’ T.V. until I pass out

This is a typical Thursday for me. Just wanted a little documented reminder of what my life looked like at 38 years old.

Homework Yelper: Fraction Fail.

Written by: Andrea Angileri, Ed.S

In a perfect world, all of my formal education would make me a perfect homework helper. Yet, my sessions with my 11-year-old are riddled with some real ‘Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?’ fails. Which brings me to…fractions.
Alright..I’m smitten with ½, 1/3, and ¼. I use them regularly when “cooking” and “baking”.

“Use 1/3 of a cup of oil”…o.k.

“Add ½ cup of water to your Hamburger Helper”….got it.

“Can I have ¼ of your Kit Kat bar?”…no.

But when the tables are turned and the pies go flying off…fear creeps in.

“What is 8 of 2/7” or “What is ¼ divided by 5?”…coffee..STAT!

“Make a story problem of 5 divided by ¼”…can I just write ‘No thanks’?

The math homework session was days ago, but in the midst of it I imagined myself frantically slicing pizza into slices as pizza sauce maniacally flew in the air staining our clothes…the walls…or maybe I’d take a more friendly approach by using Legos and then resorting to bringing in a chainsaw from the garage.

Sometimes I am uncomfortably comforted realizing that somewhere there is a parent or grandparent sitting with a child and they are using the empty spaces to place ‘Tic Tac Toe’ in the workbook.

Realizing my limitations, I call in my middle-schooler. He helps for a bit, dodging the word problems, but doing his big brotherly part. We fumble through the workbook and I quickly put it back in his backpack like some sort of Jumanji game that we never want to make eye contact with again.

Math was never ‘my thing’. My parents told my Algebra instructor that I had ‘childhood issues with hearing’. He compassionately put me close to the front of the class. The problem was that I could have literally been placed inside his brain and I’d probably leap onto a chorus of a Rush song….anything but a theorem. I received my Masters and Ed.S in the throes of parenting little kids…I can do anything…but at 38 the language arts preference has grown ever strong, pushing math into the storage closet of my mind.

My kind of math goes a little like this.

“If I am mailing a bill from Illinois to Pennsylvania on a Monday…will I have $300 in my checking account on Friday?”

“If I have 4 children and 5 hours of sleep…what time the next day will I completely lose my mind?”

“What percentage of my student loans will get paid off by the time I die?”

The naysayers were wrong when they said, “We’d never use this again”. Clearly we would….to help our kids do their homework. A few days later, my son came home with rectangles with spaces that were blank, hatched, or cross-hatched (high school art terms that I miraculously recall). I had to throw in the towel. A key thing to remember is that homework is only supposed to reinforce what the child is learning in school, not introduce new information…nor drive a parent crazy. I really like all of my children’s teachers. I basically like anybody who is a teacher because it is not for the fainthearted. Neither is parenting.

So parents, when you are alone at that dining room table and you can’t find an engineer major within arms reach…hear a distant chorus of Michael Jackson’s ‘You are Not Alone’ and know that I when I too see things like what is 9 of 5/16ths… I kind of want to tell 9 to kiss 5/16ths of my…foot.

Wait…would that be my tiny toe?… I rest my whole case.

10 Things I’ve Learned From Children

Written by: Andrea Angileri, Ed.S

Children are teachers, and they get paid about as much too. Here are things that I have learned from my four children and the many children I’ve been blessed to cross paths with.
1. Let Them Be Little…and then move on. I’m fairly convinced that one of the reasons I had four children instead of two was that I knew I’d be moping along with an 11 year old and 14 year old missing the pitter patter of little feet. Little children are adorable with their unfiltered mouths, emotions, and cherub faces. Love them, squeeze them, play with them, and then let them grow up.
2. Motherhood is eternal. You never stop being a mother. It is an eternal bond and life sentence. The love, the worry, conception to death and then in the afterlife.
3. Mistakes are Inevitable. I don’t even like the word mistakes, but prefer ‘learning opportunities’ or ‘creative life choices’. That being said, there are many women behind bars (real or imagined) because of a series of these ‘mistakes’. For the more fortunate ones, they are chances to grow, learn, and teach.
4. Children are Free Agents. Children will have natural talents and abilities that we can nurture, but they are really in charge of their own God given gifts. Just because they can draw comic books doesn’t mean you need to look into an internship at Marvel, nor do they have to get into show business because they excel at dancing. It dawned on me when I was more excited about a hip hop convention with thoughts of L.A. than my kid was that I had to step back. I had to give the ninja sleep hold with finger to my lip with a dramatic and comedic ‘SHHH’ as my inner stage mom quietly passed out of my ego. I take this into my writing. While a lot of things take effort, writing comes naturally. It’s enjoyable because I control it and decide what to do with it. It’s also fairly cheap…only shavings of my soul are spent.
5. Never Overestimate or Underestimate a Child. Tough lesson, but children are unpredictable. I’ve tucked a 5 year old into bed discovering a quarter in his mouth and have discovered a 7 year old climb on top of a refrigerator randomly to clean it. They keep you on your toes which brings me to number 6.
6. Never Say Never. My child will never do that, say that, act like that, think that or make ME do that, say that, act like that, think that. L..O…L. Boys were no surprise to me as I found myself babysitting for families with boys throughout my adolescence and adult life (So obviously, God was preparing me to have 3 boys). He knew I’d be stubborn and shoot for the girl though, which is why he had me practice with babysitting little girls. Unlike boys, I’d find myself falling short with this new ‘kind’, but I’d come to realize it was also really good practice to become better equipped for parenting a little girl. That being said, I clearly recall a moment where I witnessed a preteen scream, “I HATE YOU!!” at her mother who was dropping her off at school. Trust me, every time my 5 year old daughter spontaneously says, “I like you Mom”…”I love you Mom”…I have learned to bask in the moment and Never Say Never.
7. Children Help You Face Your Fears. We are loaded with fears, children just help us magnify them. Take a moment and conjure up your biggest fear…..now throw a kid or two in the mix. Like Patsy Cline lamented, “Oh Stop the World and Let Me Off!”. Raising kids is scary and therapeutic all at the same time, constantly pushing us out of our comfort zones. We read the headlines, we may even know the people associated with them, and we might even have to outlive our worst nightmares. These are the cold, hard facts. As a consolation prize you get to write a memoir.
8. Children are Entertaining. Because they cause us such anxiety and financial depletion, children will say and do the darn’dest things. I give you permission to write these things down, take a picture, and even post some of it..whatever you need to do to remember it..but maybe draw a line and don’t overdo it because apparently nobody else thinks your potty shot is funny…including your kid.
9. Children Push You to Make You Better. Anything that teaches you anything makes you better. I’m not saying that people who are parents are better than people who are not parents. Maybe I’m saying children or people who act like children make you better. I don’t know…I don’t write to make friends. I’m just saying that children hold you accountable for your own inadequacies. They point out your strengths and your weaknesses…whether directly (‘You have a big tummy’) or indirectly (Giving you a dirty look after a day long grudge). Children make you WANT to be better. I’m not saying every day will be a success, but children daily refine you to be more patient, understanding, compassionate, flexible, loving, better decision makers, better financial planners, etc. but only if you are open to it.
10. Mommy Guilt Goes Better With Chocolate. Maybe that’s what my book title will be called. Mommy Guilt is like the national debt…it’s never going away and seems to be growing with the next generation. Somehow moms and dads seem to have made parenting some sort of contest. At best I say it’s ‘survival of the fittest’. I’ve experience mommy guilt, daycare child guilt, preschool teacher guilt, and even random stranger kid guilt. Staying awake thinking of ways I could have been better equipped to be a caregiver to children I never birthed…what…ever. The key goes into feeling secure as a parent because you are happy with your choices. While ‘thinking before parenting’ would be wonderfully ideal, it ain’t real life. Parenting is full of impulses, some days we are just 2 slammed doors and 1 f-bomb away from a SuperNanny episode.  We do the best we can. Some days are a hit, some are a miss. Heck, some HOURS are a hit, some are a miss.

 I conclude with a thought of future posts, but a stronger desire for anything chocolately.

From 0 to 3 dogs in 41 Days

Sometimes life leads you to places that you never dreamed that you would be. It could be a good place or a bad place. Either way, anything in life is possible. If I think back on where I was last year, I would probably be awake checking out websites for dogs that were up for adoption. Now, I am wide awake because of the websites that tell you the dogs that are up for adoption.

We brought Lucky the Beagle home on Jan. 14, 2014 (see ‘Getting Lucky: A Blog with a Dog’) and by early January we just had a hunch that he was not intended to be an only dog. In his shelter picture he has this huge grin on his face and though he seemed content to be settled into his new home with his new people, I was beginning to feel that he needed a little friend.
So started the late night scrolls on social media for a friend for Lucky. When we saw that there was a 2 year old Beagle at a local shelter we jumped. Here stood my family (well 5 out of 6) with dog in tow ready to meet a possible ‘candidate’. Lucky sniffed him out and deemed him worthy. If I would have totally denied having a teenager, we probably would have brought this ‘Snoopy’ home. But, honesty has always been my best policy and because of their policy since my WHOLE family wasn’t there….no dice.
The second possible candidate was a 7 year old Beagle in a shelter 40 minutes out. I took Lucky and my 4yo daughter and we met with a barking, graying, mounting dog that just seemed to ‘not be the best fit’.
Despite having a one week vacation booked, something still stirred within me that said that we should keep looking.
I think there was a brief stop at the local shelter to see a Shih Tzu that was quickly a U turn because of the ‘Shouldn’t be with young children’ warning label.
It was a Saturday in late February. Six out of 6 of my family members were home. I was tired of looking at dog adoption websites. We were going to get that second dog today.
When I saw the shaggy Cocker Spaniels, I was drawn to their subdued demeanor. One was 6 years old, the other was 10, and they had just recently been surrendered.
I would like to take a moment to explain my thought process so that you don’t think that I am a heartless human being.
1. I have one dog.
2. I am a new dog owner.
3. This dog is used to living with another dog.
4. I only want to have two dogs.
5. The 6 year old dog is younger.
6. There is a cost to adopting and taking care of dogs.
7. I have 4 kids and I am a little crazy for even being here looking at a second dog.

We took ‘Bailey’ into the visiting room and he paced the floor with a content, but oblivious disregard for us. Lucky seemed to be at ease with him. The kids thought he looked like a fuzzy teddy bear.

The papers were signed and after a few days of vet visits Bailey would be coming home. I knew that Bailey’s brother Riley was going to be up for adoption, but I knew that he would go quickly. I left my phone number and requested the staff to pass onto the new owners for future reference. I had settled into the thought that the brothers would be starting a new chapter of life. Like when human siblings leave the nest to marry and have their own children, I picture meeting up with some stranger at a park on behalf of a brother reunion where they would ‘catch up on old times’. Riley was older and would be doted on with a new family. It would be fine.

Yep…this is kind of what happens when a naïve new pet owner completely falls into a pet store mentality and has no clue about what it means when dog siblings are ‘bonded’. Here I was with my ‘ooh they are cute, I’ll take one’ hastiness, but it really did have some logic to it.

Bring on the critics.

“Bailey has been adopted!” announces Facebook.

My husband and I quickly became the most loathed people on the internet because clearly we went to the animal shelter to destroy animal psyche. A simple, “I hope they will consider adopting both” would have been suitable or I could even laugh at the response of ‘Who needs a husband?’ to my ‘I’d have to get rid of one husband to get three dogs’ comment, but as with anything on social media, passions soar in somewhat misguided and offensive ways.

By this point in my life, I know that it really doesn’t matter what people really think of you….it’s about learning about you and reconciling that to yourself. My husband was feeling the heat and we really had 3 options.

1. Press on and say ‘Hi’ to the haters.
2. Pass on the adoption and let some nice couple get both dogs.
3. Be the nice couple and get both dogs.

One prayer, two softened hearts, two open minds and a realization that our lives would be chaotic for the next 10 years anyways later, we couldn’t get back to the shelter fast enough to make sure that ‘Old Man Riley’ wasn’t swiped up.

The shelter staff apologized for some of the social media backlash and were able to somewhat condense the fee of the adoption because they were siblings (for which I was grateful).

The dogs had to have their ears cleared up before they came home. They were not in good shape (as depicted on social media). I suddenly realized that I could be bringing home 2 deaf dogs. Dear Lord, what have I gotten myself into? Again came some social media critics and I was surprised to see one commenter quietly defending the owner who had surrendered the dogs. “I know the owner of these dogs and she loved them, it must have been really hard for her to surrender them”.

I would soon get an inbox message from a friend of the past owner of ‘Bailey’ and ‘Riley’, which would lead me to a phone call with their previous owner. A treasured series of exchanges of information, heart pouring, and pictures throughout the year would follow. I would learn about their birthdays, their love of tennis balls, the quirky way Riley would eat corn on the cob, their sleeping arrangements. I learned that they had the same father, but different mother, but mostly I learned that they were loved.

People have to surrender their dogs for so many different reasons. This person had to do what was best for the dogs. She had been working two jobs, had lost a house, had to move elsewhere, couldn’t bring the dogs. One bonus life lesson that I would learn is compassion for people who need to surrender their beloved pets. When they would snuggle on the couch with me I would feel some melancholy that they were not there to help comfort their previous owner who was going through some tough times. I would also look at Lucky who I have no background information about, and wonder what kind of family he came from.

Ironically, but completely expected, we brought Bailey and Riley home on my son’s 10th birthday. I picked Joey up early from school, bought him a video game, and we went to pick up our new furry bundles of joy. We had done it, we had actually gone from 0 to 3 dogs in 41 days…who knew? They are family dogs, but clearly they are Mama’s boys…..but more on that with an upcoming ‘Dog Ma’ blog post.

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Opinion Ate It

Sometimes I miss the quiet onlooker days of my childhood, when I would look and just take things in about the world around me…innocently….somewhat nonjudgmentally… So that is what I am finding myself attracting back to.

I sit back as an adult and observe the world around me. I scroll on social media, I work, I raise a family and I sit and realize that I have become so bloated with opinions that sometimes I can hardly move. It might be my own microwaved opinion or another’s home cooked one, but they are all absorbed into my body and sticky goo throughout my innards.
I’ve somewhat prided myself on maintaining flexible open-mindedness, but I see closed minds and open mouths and open minds and closed mouths and wonder where on the spectrum I even fall anymore. I decide to keep mum on the way I feel about a lot of things. Nobody is beating down doors to discover how I truly feel about politics, religion, or any of the hot topics anyways, so it should be really easy to be quiet.
But there is a problem. I can’t ditch this thing called ‘my voice’. I have found it and even though I try to distract it by saying things like, “Hey LOOK…wasn’t that Tom Cruise?!” and running like hell to get away from it… It finds me.

The difference now is that I am more cognizant of discipline. My son has a poster at his school. It’s a poster that asks you to reflect on these things before speaking ‘Is it necessary? Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it honest?’ I’m not so naïve to think that our own natural impulsive human tendencies won’t get in the way of this practice. My over exposure to social media and real life people have given me opportunities to write and speak and I’m finding it to be a liability of sorts.

Seeing two sides to every topic is so exhausting, but it really does keep me in a place of understanding. Understanding why people do what they do, why they are who they are…Humanity 101. It doesn’t mean that I have to be all of those things. It doesn’t have to mean I agree with all those things, but sometimes it just means that my opinion can pass on the indulgence or have its cake, eat it too, and never have Instagrammed the cake in the first place.

Jolly Old St. Nicholas?

Last week the Sunday school teacher pulled me close and whispered sweet St. Nick traditions in my ear. I marked it on my calendar. We don’t do the shoe outside the door thing. We also don’t do the Elf on the Shelf thing. In fact, the stockings (which used to be my childhood favorite part) are getting a little on the skimpy side anymore. But Christmas is Christmas and as long as we have ¾ of our children believing in the whole Santa Claus thang then I am doing things like finding the best nontrippable place outside the doors to put shoes where I will wake up in the middle of the night to panic and fill with dollar store candy.

A couple of weeks ago my husband told me, “I think we should tell Joey about Santa”
“No, I don’t want to….not yet..not this year,” I said.
I knew that at 10 he was getting a bit old for all that, but I remembered being pretty up there in age and was (reportedly) crushed to find out that it was all a big fat made up story, and I didn’t want all that.
I was putting the shoes out and my 10 year old tells my husband, “I know about the whole ‘St. Nick’ thing”

“How do you know?” asked my husband.

“The internet,” he said matter-of factly.

“Wait…do you mean just the St. Nick thing or the Santa thing,” I cautiously inquire.

“Both” he said.

Later he told me that he knew a few months back but didn’t say anything because I was always with the little kids.
Just like that. No tears, no shaking of the fists at the injustice of it all. Just aged out.. that’s all. More bittersweet for me than for him I guess. Two kids down and two to go.  Half of my kids still ‘believe’.  A couple years ago I made myself a pact that when all of the kids passed this phase of life we would go on vacation over the holidays.  Looks like we are that much closer to building that snowman in the sand.