Monday, January 23, 2012

Peregrin Took

Several months ago I wrote a post called "What's In a Name". The gist of the post was that our name does not define who we become. I must now recount this sentiment in at least one instance: If you name your dog after the most mischievous of hobbits, he will undoubtedly live up to his name by becoming the devil in K-9 form. I suppose I better back track just a bit. In case you are one of the ten people in the world who has never seen nor read J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings series, I will briefly explain what a hobbit is. Hobbits are about half the size of regular men. They have hairy feet, a love of parties, pipes and pints, and they live in little underground dwellings with round doors. They are also capable of extraordinary feats, such as saving Middle Earth. For more on this, WATCH THE MOVIES (one rare instance where the movies are actually better than the books, in my opinion). Now, back to the maddening mutt, who happens to be the subject of this post. Last fall I was baby hungry. But, a baby didn't seem to be in the cards at that point in time. Naturally, I turned to the next best (or so I thought) thing; a puppy. As it turned out, the family who lives just behind us had lab puppies at the time. I made the rookie mistake of holding one, and we were nearly the proud owners of a chocolate lab, until we remembered that we didn't want the interior of our home turned into a slobber-covered hairball and that we didn't have the yard space to keep such a large dog happy outside. We decided it would be a much better idea to find a small breed that didn't shed. Perfect combination (or once again, so we thought). Fate intervened at this point. Some of our best friends fell upon an opportunity to bring home two Zuchon puppies. The owner didn't mind them taking both, so long as the brothers were kept together. Our friends figured that having the brother pups live a block away and getting them together for regular play dates was enough togetherness. They asked if we were interested. Within a few weeks, we had a new addition to the family. Also within a few weeks, a pink plus sign showed up very clearly on a certain stick. Time to pull out the baby name books! First, however, there was the matter of naming a black and white fur ball. I have always liked the idea of literary names for pets. This way, you can use a name of a character from one of your favorite books that you would never dream of actually using as a name for a child. There's a good chance if you name your kid Pippi Longstocking, she'll probably get beat up at school. Well, Dirk and I started tossing around names of some of our favorite fictional characters.....Sirius Black (too serious), Mr. Bingley (too peppy- more of a lab or terrier name)...... Frodo.....Merry.......Pippin! Pippin... it was perfect. Aside from being the name of a character from one of our favorite series, it also sounded like a dog name. We would name our mutt Peregrin Took and call him "Pippin". This, I laughingly said, was so that when he was especially naughty, we could use his full name. How clever! If only I had known then just how many times I would end up bellowing out the name "Peregrin Took!" Occasionally I can also be heard to yell "Fool of a Took!!", although I don't think it is nearly as intimidating as when it is intoned by an all powerful wizard. In case you are one of the ten in the dark about this whole hobbit thing, I will inform you that Peregrin Took is the hobbit equivalent of Curious George, and he causes Gandalf the wizard a lot of grief.
Oh, how naive I was the day we brought our precious puppy home. "I've been through two babies (one with colic) , two terrible two-year olds (talk about a tongue twister), and two rounds of potty training. How hard could a puppy be?", I thought. This would be a cake walk. It didn't take long for me to realize that a puppy is very much like a human child, only you can't diaper a puppy. In my beginning, exhaustive state of pregnancy, I was kept awake much of the night by a constant whimper. In the midst of my morning sickness, I was cleaning up little doggy presents left for me by my precious pooch. In the midst of my nesting, I was finding new chew marks on furniture and various other household items every day. "It will get easier", everyone said. "The first year is the hardest." "Take him to puppy kindergarten." So we did. Off we went to Petsmart, where we were taught how to house break, walk, and discipline our doggy, and where we were also talked into buying him more expensive food than we feed ourselves. Puppy school did help. Soon, there were far fewer accidents in the house. Pippin would respond to commands to "sit", "stay" and "come". He was now "kennel trained" and was not whining all night long. We had painted over some of the more obvious bite marks on the window sill, and the rest we decided to think of as "rustic touches" to our quaint abode. During my "if I don't have a nap today I might kill someone" daily resting periods, Pippin would cuddle on my lap. All seemed to be going well. Then came baby. It was all very Lady and the Tramp. Pippin's favored spot on my lap was soon occupied by someone with much less hair. And, alas, poor Pippin had no Lady. My other two children handled the transition of bringing baby home surprisingly well. It was the dog who had issues. He began reverting back to some of his more Tookish ways. At times, he was outright defiant. Once I was downstairs rocking Ryan. Pippin came down, looked right at me, then turned, lifted his leg, and peed all over the space heater. That one definitely elicited a "Fool of a Took!", among other phrases. There have been many more such incidents, and I have cleaned up shredded diapers from the trash can more times than I care to remember. There have been so many days when I have imagined Pippin playing happily on a farm many, many miles from here. On one of my "the baby has been crying all day; the older two are driving me to drink with their fighting; and if Pippin chews up one more diaper, I am going to have myself committed" days, I mentioned the farm idea to Dirk. We obviously weren't capable of giving Pippin the attention and training he needed. Surely he would be happier somewhere else. Dirk promptly agreed. Then came the matter of bringing this plan up with Morgan and Hyrum. Over a nice family dinner, we calmly mentioned our idea. The look on Hyrum's four-year-old face stopped the plan dead in it's tracks. We were stuck.
We learn something from every trying experience we pass through. From the experience of trying to train a demonic hobbit dog, I have learned exactly two things: 1. I am not a dog person (a bad thing to realize after you actually bring a dog home.), and 2. I will do anything to protect my children from heartache. I am still trying to find the balance of being a good mother and a good dog owner. As Ryan and Pippin are both getting a little older, this is becoming a bit easier. But I would certainly never recommend having a puppy and a newborn at the same time. Then again, maybe it's good to get all of the hard things out of the way at the week my son had a tonsillectomy and we remodeled our bathroom......maybe I am just a glutton for punishment. Whatever the case may be, I know one thing for sure.....Pippin is our first and last dog. And, if at some point in the future, my puppy hunger overrides my sanity and we bring home another dog, we are naming it Road Kill.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Quit!

Warning: this may be a bit of a pity party (at least until I write myself out of it). Yes, today is one of those days that I just need to vent, to put my feelings out there in the hopes that perhaps someone else somewhere understands how I feel. Have you ever watched the show Wipeout? My kids think it is absolutely hysterical, and I have to admit that slapstick comedy never really gets old for me either. In case you are a cave dweller and have never seen an advertisement for the show, or the show itself, I will fill you in. All you really need to know is that a lot of people get clobbered, pummeled, bounced off of giant red balls, and ultimately end up in the water, beat up and defeated. There; you are now caught up. Today I can really relate to the contestants on Wipeout, though sadly I have arrived at the point of defeat and exhaustion without anywhere near the giant red bouncy balls in sight. I have always been a people pleaser. I know that is one of those generic terms that everyone throws around and claims to be. But I truly am. I like to earn my gold stars. I had to stop looking on Facebook because it was making me upset when no one "liked" my status. I have always cared too much what others think of me. I know it is a problem, and I am working through it, mainly because if I don't work through it soon, I am liable to be six feet under the ground where I won't be much use to anyone but the worms. Being a people pleaser is exhausting. I also tend to be extremely tender-hearted. So, basically, I am a walking doormat. Feel free to use me anytime you need. I often feel like I am simply a means to an end to many of my friends. As soon as I become expendable or unnecessary to them, I don't expect to hear from them again. I send people sympathy cards when their dog dies who never even thought twice about condoling with me after my miscarriage (something that, to me was a devastating personal loss). There are maybe a handful of people in my life whom I feel love me as unconditionally as I love them. And perhaps that is normal. And I am so grateful for those people. I hope I express my gratitude often enough. Of course, three of the people I love the most in the entire world are my children. And I expect to be a doormat for them. That's a mother's job. I don't expect them to fully realize or appreciate what I sacrifice for them until they have children of their own some day. Truth be told, the main reason I am in the throws of a "why me?" tantrum (which by the way, is not even a legitimate one- no Ben and Jerry's-although I have snitched four chocolate chip cookies off the counter) is because of my children. It has been one of those days where you question if anything you have tried tirelessly to teach your children has sunk in, or even been heard. My mom took my son and I to his favorite restaurant for lunch. And my sweet boy was apparently taken over by an evil pod person. He was acting like Veruka Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I actually told him at one point that I was going to send him down the bad egg shoot. I will spare you the details. Let's just say, that my son, whom I know to be a sweet and caring boy, was acting like a spoiled rotten brat. The entire way home I found myself wondering where I have gone wrong as a mother. Have I been too much of a doormat? Have a been too strict? Did I do wrong by my children by not instituting a "naughty mat" as Supernanny commanded all parents to do? I strive to teach my children to be generous, grateful and kind above all else. Today, I saw the exact opposite of that in my son's behavior, and I found myself feeling defeated as a parent.
I suppose all parents have days when they feel this way. In fact, anyone reading this who has teenagers is probably laughing and thinking to themselves, "You just wait". Parenting is the hardest job in the world, no ifs, ands or buts about it. You are literally responsible for molding lives. And, if you one day realize that you are not as good a life molder as you had hoped to be, there's no quitting, or changing majors. No one (save maybe Social Services or the state police) can even "fire" you if you are doing a crappy job as a parent. And, talk about taking your work home with a stay at home mom, you never leave it! It's a 24-7 job- no lunch breaks, sick days, paid leave....ok- no pay at all. Most nights you don't even get to sleep off the exhaustion (especially when you have a seven month old who is still waking up five times a night).
And, now, here comes the part where I will write myself out of this pity party......let's see if I can truly become the Houdini of words.......drum roll please.........I realize I can't quit being a mother, nor would I want to. It is the hardest thing (times 1,0000) that I've ever had to do, but it is also the best thing I can think of spending my days doing. Among the days when my children are possessed by demons, there are also days of belly laughs and peanut butter kisses, stacks of library books and mac n' cheese. There are "I love you mommy's" and crayon drawings of princesses and dinosaurs. There are days of popcorn, pj's and Disney movies. And there are even those rare shining moments (in which I may or may not give myself a little gold star on a chart in a secret notebook) when my children prove that something I have tried to teach them is sinking in. Being a mother is bittersweet. It breaks your heart and keeps it beating all at the same time. It makes you want to curl up in a hole and hide, but it also gives you a reason to live. Failure or not, I love being a mother. I also love that I am a compassionate person. I love being able to feel for those around me. Perhaps I get clobbered for it when the concern does not seem reciprocal, but I will not become jaded because of it. I will just love those people more. I may have experienced a total wipe out today, but that doesn't mean I won't be right back up on those giant red bouncy balls trying even harder tomorrow. If there were one quality about myself that I cherish, it would be that I am persistent. I don't give up. My favorite quote is by Mother Theresa: "I cannot do great things; only small things with great love." I hope that I will always open my heart to those around me, and try in small ways to make my little corner of the world a better place.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Resolutions Shmesolutions

Two things about the title of this post: First: Try saying it ten times fast.......oh how I wish I were there to witness this. I, being infamously bad at tongue twisters, could only say it twice. Second: I don't really, completely mean it. I am not altogether banishing New Years resolutions from my 2012. I am just banishing my usual method of making far too many to keep. Ben Franklin once wrote down 14 virtues that he had come to decide were the basis of happiness if a person were to attain them. He then kept a daily ledger of all 14 virtues and made an accounting at the end of each day of how he had kept each virtue. Now Ben did say that he felt he had become a better man for doing this than he would have become otherwise. And I don't doubt it. He was a remarkable man who did extraordinary things with his life. However, no offense to Ben, but he had time to sit and daily ponder the 14 virtues of happiness. I happen to have three children under the age of 10, and sometimes by the end of the day all I have energy or time to ponder is what my drug of choice will be to kill the headache that has been coming on all day. Occasionally I have time and energy to think up some inane blog post that innocent readers will later stumble across in the hopes of reading something good. Tonight is one such night. I am sorry that you, dear reader, are now suffering for it. You have read this far though, so why stop now?
I am a list maker. If I need something from the store, it goes on a list. If I think of a project around the house, it goes on a list (oftentimes a "honey do" list- I won't lie). If I think of a good idea for a birthday present for someone who's birthday is months away, it goes on a list. And I realize that I am now beginning to make a list of my lists, so I will stop. As with everything else in my life, my New Years resolutions have always been in the form of a list......oftentimes a categorized, itemized list, which usually ends up being quite a bit longer than Benny's list of 14 virtues. In past years, I have made specific goals for different areas of my life.....I would write down physical goals, intellectual goals, spiritual goals, emotional goals. Sometimes these categories would be broken into categories, each of which included at least 5 goals. Now, any of you who have made and broken resolutions can probably guess about how long mine actually lasted. It was not long. I have learned from shows like "Hoarders" (who ever thought those shows could be educational) that I am a perfectionist. The deal with most hoarders is that they are actually perfectionists. They can't find the perfect spot or the perfect use for anything. So it all just piles up in one useless, nauseating heap. I think I have just enough OCD mixed in with my perfectionistic tendencies to squash the whole hoarding thing, but I am definitely a perfectionist in other areas of my life. If you were to see me on a typical day at home, I would most likely look like I hadn't showered for 2 days and forgot how to brush my hair or put makeup on. This is not because I don't care how I look, it is because I care too much. Because I don't have time to make myself look like Halle Berry, or money to pay for her five person beauty entourage, I often don't even bother trying to look good at all! I think I am making slow but steady progress with my perfectionism. I now, most days, realize that short of having a new face constructed, I am never going to look like Halle Berry, and I at least shower, take five minutes to throw on some makeup, and often even blow dry my hair. I have also made progress in my need for perfection with regards to New Years resolutions. This year, instead of making 40 resolutions and becoming a dead beat one month later when I remember that I am not a hybrid of Martha Stewart and Mother Teresa, I am making exactly one resolution (it actually physically hurts just a little bit). My resolution for 2012 is this: I resolve to spend more of my time engaging in activities which will enrich my own life and the lives of those I care about the most. That's it. Now, it goes without saying (but you know I'm gonna' say it anyway) that this resolution means spending less time engaging in activities that suck time away from the things I truly care about. Some things are going to have to get the ax, and undesirable number 1 is Facebook. Now, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against it. I have just recently come to the realization that I spend valuable time that I could be spending improving myself or making my children feel more loved, mindlessly scrolling through status updates of people who probably don't even know my middle name. It is 10:30, and this is the first time I have been online all day. And what a glorious day it was. I played games with my son. I took my kids to the park. I had a bubble bath. It was a near perfect day. So I guess my resolution for 2012 could also be stated another way: I resolve to create more perfect days this year. I truly believe that perfect days are created, largely by our attitude and by what we choose to spend our precious energy on. I have always hated the cliche "Live like you were dying", although I do find Kris Allen's song about the cliche very catchy. I think it is a morbid and pessimistic message. Of course we are all dying. Every breath we take brings us one breath closer to the pearly gates, whether we are to arrive at them unexpectedly in prime condition, or with white hair and wrinkles after a long journey. We're all headed to the same place (though it may be a little hotter for some when they arrive). Why dwell on this? Why not live like we're alive, with gratitude for the sheer miracle that fact is? Why not live with the attitude that each breath we take is an opportunity to become more alive, more aware of the "miraculous in the common" that surrounds us every day? The Mayan calendar may end on December 21, 2012. Perhaps this will be the end of the world as we know it. But for once in my life, my resolution is not being made in reference to what anyone else says or thinks. And you know what? I've never felt more alive!