Why we absolutely Do NOT need a dog for any reason…..maybe….

There’s been a lot of talk in this neck of the woods lately about getting a little dog. Super Tall Guy has been begging for one since the moment he could talk. I have him generally pacified with the excuse of needing to move first so that we’ll have a nice big yard for the dog to run (and theoretically not have to do daily excrement removal!). He did inform me just the other day, though, that the excuse is wearing a bit thin….and “if we don’t move this year, we must get a dog before my next birthday.”  I’m still not quite giving in.

I thought about it briefly last monthly….briefly enough to begin a conversation with the other head-of-household.  But then I let it drop….and now it surfaces again as the next boy approaches the tender age of 8 – apparently the age to consider getting a dog.

But….let me just say this (you know, in a blog, rather than in conversation….) – here are ALL the reasons why we don’t need a dog, actually:

Dogs bite – particularly little puppies. They are always nipping on something…your shoes, your TV remotes, your body. And really, we already have a biter in the house. His name is Mr. Trouble. Come to think of it – he’s never bitten me (wise young man), but he so enjoys shocking his mother with a good nip or causing a ruckus by attacking the back or arm of an unsuspecting brother/cousin. So why add another random pain inducer?

Dogs are constantly underfoot and you are always tripping over them. We have that already – The Little Guy. You turn around and boom – there he is! You trip over him.  You walk into the kitchen and he circles in front of you – boom! Trip over him. Anywhere you turn. Anywhere you walk. It’s uncanny. There is The Little Guy … underfoot! Boom. Trip.  (“uncanny?” …more like “annoying” is what it is!!)

Dogs tend to “piddle” in the house and usually in a most unwelcome place. We already have that – “Mommy, ‘someone’ peed on the floor again!!” – in the toy room, in a bed room, on the hardwood floor….a nice puddle of yellow. Seems Mr. Trouble went through a stage of marking his territory which (knock-on-wood) has subsided, but The Little Guy is still having enough “accidents” in his toileting “stage” that I’m not so eager to bring another creature lacking bowel and bladder control into the house!

Dogs bark a lot and you can’t actually make them be quiet if they don’t want to. And we really already have a whiny, crying little being – The Little Guy. He gets into fits of whine and cry that no amount of threat, cuddles, hugs or admonitions is going to snap him out of it. He’s particularly good about starting into a fit around 5:40 in the morning….just when you need that last bit of sleep cycle to get the body rested. Why would we want another incessant noise-maker???

Dogs shed, and tear up newspapers, and scratch up furniture, and pull things off counters, and carry shoes around the house and leave them in miscellaneous places, and splash water all over the floor while drinking, and…. And, really, the five creatures who ambulate on two feet pretty much do the exact same things – shed scratched tableclothes wherever they happen to be standing, tear up newspapers or books, scratch the dining room table with the tines of forks (despite repeated admonitions), pull candies and treats off the counters, carry one shoe off and leave it wherever they last changed their focus of attention, and can’t possibly direct every drop of water from a cup into their mouth, thus splattering the floor… And this is all in a 20-minute period – now just keep repeating that throughout the day!

in the office

Dogs wander into places you don’t want them to go unless you’ve managed to train them to be in the crate or a room for the day. Children also seem to have the habit of wandering into rooms that you’ve expressively forbidden them numerous times. And when caught red-handed, they hide under your office room chair and pretend they’re not there and that that’s obviously not their mess on your desk!

Okay… in an attempt to be fair and reasonable, there are a couple reasons why we do need a dog…

They clean up the house – at least of anything edible.  I have, in fact, vowed to never feed the boys spaghetti again until we have a dog who will clean the floor. I have to date broken that vow numerous times….but I still say it every time I attempt to get the sticky stringy noodles to stop clinging to the broom bristles and move into the dustpan.

They are generally protective and since we’ve already been robbed….it stands to reason that it might be nice to have a loud boisterous deterrent guarding the door and the little ones inside.

They are adorable and cuddly …. For just a wee bit of time ….just like the cute and cuddly newborns ….who suddenly grew up to be loud and boisterous boys craving independence and “power.”

They are a “man’s best friend” and since we’re in the process of raising a rambunctious handful of men, it might be nice for them to have a friend….and a few lessons in “responsibility” wouldn’t hurt.

We’ll let you know what he/she looks like…. And, of course, we sure would love your advice for “family-friendly”…. “semi-shed-free” …. “lovable, adorable” dogs in the comments below.

….if you wouldn’t mind…

….just sayin’……

(thanks)

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Anatomy of a Mantel in the home of Five Young Boys

Every year, our home is “recertified” for foster care. I’m not entirely sure why we continue to stay “open” and “certified” since we’re both crazy busy with the five boys…..but we do.  We could discuss this for awhile, but let’s not. The wine is kicking in and I’m ready to get to bed.  Nonetheless, to keep our house certified, we have an annual visit by our Child, Youth and Family (local Child Protective Services) case worker. This year, it’s a new caseworker. The one we had for ten years just retired in January and we haven’t met the new one yet….so we’re a little nervous.  There might have been a bit more cleaning this weekend than typical….so much so that Super Tall Guy exclaimed, “Why do we have to still be cleaning?!?”

The “anatomy of the mantel” will give you a hint at why.  I don’t really want to be doing a PDF….but there were a lot of graphics and I’m still in the stone-age for them….so bear with me….and enjoy.  Anatomy of a Mantel 6-22-14

Everything I need to know I learned from my son’s first grade

M & N 4-30-14Love your job and do it. – Super Tall Guy struggled with high energy and impulsivity the entire school year. It seemed like every day he was getting into a bit of trouble in first grade. Wrapping up a parent-teacher conference with the principal in attendance, I thanked the two of them with heartfelt gratitude for being willing to work so hard with him. “Of course,” said the principal, “It’s our job and we love him.” It struck me that she was right and I was thrilled to see them do their job with such loving hearts.

Judge less. Give more grace. – Super Tall Guy informed me one day, “Mom, why are you always judging me? They give me more grace at school.”  Apparently, my constant parent-harping is considered judging and I should give him a little more grace. Very true. They speak the truth.  And if you make a mistake and “judge” the wrong kid, apologize and make amends. That’s what his teacher does

Some things take a lot more time and money than you expect. Let’s take shopping for school supplies at the beginning of the year as an example. Enough said.

Find a routine that works and stick to it….up until the point at which you find you absolutely must change it. Figure out when that homework must be done and stick to it. Kids smell weakness.

It’s okay to reward some behaviors. It is amazing how the “Spelling” grade sky-rocketed once practice was tied to the reward of “ten minutes of TV” (well, technically, “screen time” as the TV is still out of commission thanks to the mysterious “somebody” who keeps getting into trouble!). Rewards in the form of “Leaping for Joy” from the teacher can also become screen time!

Be patient and try again. You won’t always succeed on the first (or 200th) time, but keep trying. Math facts and phonics “special sounds” are pure memorization – do the drill to get the result.

Be present in the moment….and actually listen. If your kid has something to say about school other than a monosyllabic grunt, shut your mouth completely and give space for whatever he wants to say. It’s going to be rare.

Make new friends and cultivate your friendships. Bug your mother incessantly until she sets up a playdate – it’s important. Spend time with people.

Remember that the start and end of a project are always the busiest times. Plan for that.  The first couple weeks of school take an enormous amount of energy to get into a rhythm and you might as well just take off work the last week of school, what with awards ceremonies, family picnics, early dismissal…..

Hug and Kiss your kid every single day. Tell them that they are doing a good job and that they will change the world. Someday they just might believe you.

 

 

The Final Little Guy (at least currently)

(My sister informed me this morning, “Hey, I didn’t receive a Middle of the Madness email yesterday!” I replied, “And do you remember that I had something stuck in my eye last night and couldn’t hold the right one open?” So….I’m a day late…but here.)

Almost exactly at this time, three years ago, on an ordinary Thursday morning, I was presenting to a group of doctors about the concept of a crisis nursery like Jeremiah’s Place. My cell phone vibrated in my pocket and I ignored it through the talk, through the questioning time and as I walked out of the building with my colleague. Reaching my car, I returned the call to my sister. “How busy are you?” she asked. “Well, things are pretty busy,” I thought of all the work to be done on the nonprofit, raising two boys, working 3 part-time jobs.

“Super Tall Guy and Mr. Ornery have a little brother.”

Huh.

I called the caseworker back and she asked, “Are you ready to adopt another boy?” I couldn’t answer. Wow. There was no way I could commit to that in fifteen minutes. Adoption is a big decision. I finally replied, “I can commit to fostering the brother, but I can’t say I’m ready to adopt today.” (Of course, you all know, that the moment I said the first “yes” – I was also saying the “adoption

And so there was The Little Guy! He was ready to be discharged that afternoon, after spending 5 weeks in the hospital for methadone withdrawal. We were leaving for the beach in two days – Saturday morning. So I drove home, picked up a car seat, chose a “cute” take-me-home outfit and headed off to the hospital.

The Little Guy was tucked in the corner of the nursery. He had a little MamaRoo swing that he apparently had loved spending time in. He had a whole lot of nurses who had loved him for the past month. He had a few outfits and apparently a grandmother who had visited a couple times. I met with the resident who was “discharging” him and walked out with a little bundle. We went straight home so I could have a little time with him before the brothers arrived.

Then we went into hyper-drive – packing even more than usual for a beach vacation – diapers, baby clothes, bottles, formula, binkies, pack-n-play, blankets. It was a hectic start but in a way it was nice to go away. We all had time to bond some with this little guy, rather than returning right to work as is typically the case for us in getting newborns.

The Little Guy came to us at the “oldest” age for an adopted boy. Sometimes I’m sad about missing out on those first few sweet weeks (though I guess for him they were difficult fussy weeks of crying and sleeping through medicated stupors). Sometimes, though, I wish the “System” would have called me right after he was born so that I might have visited him during those weeks. After all, with the birth mother in jail, they knew the baby would go to a foster home and they always try to place with siblings first. And yet, the “system” is that the Child Protective Services aren’t even notified until right before hospital discharge. And maybe it would have been hard for me to see The Little Guy struggling to clear drugs from his body. And yes, it would have been hard to squeeze in time to sit by his bedside at the hospital (likely it would have been late into the night). And yet, I would gladly have been there – for everyone needs to feel love and comfort – and a new little guy certainly needs that.

It was a “rockier” time with the adoption process for the Little Guy. I had started blogging by then so have shared several of the stories along the way. Long story, shorter….therenot-the-dad-2 was an identified “father of the baby” who was incarcerated, but who wrote letters to the baby at least 1-2 times a week. I finally became weary of this “relationship” and asked for paternity testing…which revealed that he was “not the dad.” That awkwardness ended but I still had to face the birth mother during a “contact visit” at the county jail before the adoption (yes, I made the commitment) finalized just before he turned two.  (Three years later, I’m hoping that my advice to seek contraception was in fact followed. My hands are a bit full.)

Part of this “rockiness” led me to talk to Super Tall Guy a bit about the situation with The Little Guy and the birth parents. Apparently Super Tall Guy then had some hope that The Little Guy wasn’t going to be staying around and taking up attention and space and toys. Even just last month, as an 8-yr-old, Super Tall Guy lay in bed one night and said, “I wish we didn’t adopt The Little Guy.” It seems life is still rough to be sharing time and attention. I’m sure that all families struggle with how many kids to have, and for us foster-to-adopt families, it’s hard to predict how all of this will play out. Will the foster kids stay and become adopted….or will they tear your heart in two as they leave? As hard as it is on the adult, it also has implications for the kids in the household as well.

Three years later, The Little Guy is still “the little guy” (though he’s finally solidly on the growth chart!!)I used to tell people that The Little Guy got the “memo” that he was Boy # 5 and life would be easier as a calm, mellow little dude. And he sure did get a “memo” – the one that said, You’re Boy # 5 – you better be extraordinarily loud, stubborn, and strong-willed. I know these characteristics are going to be fantastic strengths one day, but in a 26-pound three-year-old, they are an expressive, argumentative, whiny, outspoken little guy!

 

Getting ready for summer!

I haven’t quite figured out when to “change out” the boys’ clothes and finally switch seasons. We had a spell of warmth that demanded the window air conditioners….and then we pulled out the blankets!

But as June arrives, there are just so many wonderful things to do. Check out this list by Pittsburgh Mommy Blogger! Of course, my kids’ favorite is anything that involves water, so I’ve decided it’s time to switch my car over to summer! (And according to the Farmer’s Almanac, it’s going to be a Scorcher this summer!)

My advice after 8 years: This is what you need to have in the trunk this summer:

  1. Swim bag for each kid
    1. swimsuit
    2. beach towel
    3. plastic goggles – the cheap ones because they constantly lose them, bite them to pieces, or otherwise mangle some part of them
    4. sunglasses – which go by the same rule as the goggles
    5. a change of clothes.
  2. Mommy’s swim bag (my favorite bag is a tote by LLBean which they don’t seem to carry any more, but it’s held up!)
    1. Sunscreen
    2. Extra towels
    3. Snacks for rumbly bellies
    4. Cash at all times (replace when used up!!) to buy more snacks for rumbly bellies because they don’t really want the healthy ones that you packed.
    5. Bandaids – you know that they will actually never abide by the “no running” rule around a pool!
    6. Tissues – love when the boys surface from below the water with boogers streaming down into their mouths, completely oblivious, and I try to pretend not to notice ….while motioning dramatically in one of those “get-over-here-and-wipe-your-snot!!” fashions.  Must have tissues….though baby wipes or the towel can be used in a pinch!
  3. Insect repellant – the tick season is upon us and Lyme Disease is hitting epidemic proportions in Southwest PA. Here’s some information from a friend of mine who is THE Lyme Disease expert in the whole world….or at least in Pennsylvania! Dr. Andrew Nowalk’s Lyme disease frequently asked questions
  4. Baby wipes – I can’t say enough about the importance of having these in the car at all times! They clean chocolate off the steering wheel (it happens!), sticky fingers, forgotten-mashed-smelly banana pieces, and so much more. In fact, I love baby wipes so much, I wrote a whole post about them almost 2 years ago!
  5. Bottles of water – this is particularly important for boys who are almost always thirsty, especially after running around under the hot summer sun. But they also come in handy cleaning up messes when you’ve decided to let the younger twoNate mud 5-14wp play by themselves on the other side of the soccer field while Super Tall Guy has practice and you, for the first time ever, spend the session talking with another mother. And then the younger boys return covered head to toe, very literally, in mud and you remember why you never stand and talk to another mother!!  It was particularly humorous, though, to hear another parent find the two boys (as I stood rustling in the trunk for the water) saying, “Um….does anyone know who these kids belong to?” in that unmistakably disapproving tone.  Yes – me… the negligent mother who is happy the boys found dirt, yet slightly distracted by finding ways to keep too much mud from settling inside the car! (Side note – a head full of mud-laden ringlets leads to a very long bath punctuated with clear joy that beckons the other boys to see that the water has become “poop.”  An inspiring conversation about this episode on Facebook has me contemplating the name for a new daycare center or boys’ school – “Boogers, Poop and Bugs.”  Has a fine ring to it, doesn’t it?!)
  6. Rounding out the back of my van, it also helps to have an umbrella (because it suddenly storms), fold-up camp chairs (because I get tired of standing for soccer/flag football), miscellaneous balls to toss around, and $20 cash hidden in the car for the spontaneous pull-over to an ice cream stand moment!

Summer is a joy! Savor every hot sizzling moment and pray there’s an ice cream truck in your neighborhood!