Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Penny Post

Well, we found her.  Our second dog.  Shaggy's bliss should now be complete.

In all honesty, I can't describe her as the "perfect" second dog.  Because first, she's a puppy.  And puppies are a pain.  Second, she has a nose for mischief.  Which, you may well think, should make her fit in perfectly around here in our house full of miscreants.  But her level of mischief has exceeded that of the kids.  By a long shot.  I will maintain the hope that her level of mischief is directly related to her puppyhood and will mostly disappear as she gets older.

As it is, we are having vivid flashbacks to our first dog, Smokey who chewed all sorts of inappropriate things (the most notable one being the kitchen linoleum) and made mischief of one sort and another.  Until she grew up a bit, and then she settled into being a great dog.  Until she got old and sick.  But that's another story entirely.

This story is about Penny.  Or Dharma as she was named when she first came to our house.  She was found as a stray and taken into the rescue program where she immediately began charming everyone who cared for her.  See, when she's in a cage at the kennel, she can't chew up very many inappropriate things.  She's free to be a sweet, lovable puppy.

So after hearing so many rave reviews about her, Shaggy just couldn't turn down the opportunity to foster her.  Though I suspect that in his mind "foster" really always meant "adopt."

I think our first mistake was to rename her.  With her, it was an option, one that we didn't feel we had with Charger.  Charger is probably not a dog name that we would ever choose.  But since he had gone by that name for at least 3 years, we didn't feel that it would be a good idea to change it.  But since Dharma had only gone by her name for a week or two, we figured changing it wouldn't be a problem.  We talked about it a lot.  The kids all got involved in the name discussion.  We took it pretty seriously, and finally settled on the name Penny.

Which we all thought fit her pretty well.  Lucky penny.  A penny saved is a penny earned.  Etc., etc.  And for me it has the added bonus of making Shaggy stop bugging me about the fact that I vetoed it as a name for R, in spite of the fact that he REALLY wanted it.

Penny's stay in our home began fairly uneventfully.  She was a little anxious being in a new place.  And she was extremely sleepy because she was on medication for kennel cough (like pneumonia for dogs).

But then she got better, and that's when all the trouble began.

We're keeping a running tally of all the things that she has done--it's getting fairly long, too long to list here.  So I'll share only the most interesting/mystifying ones.

The worst thing, by far, was that she figured out how to lift up the boards on the fence and went for a romp with the neighbor's dog . . . in the neighbor's yard.  Charger, naturally, just had to join her.  And unfortunately, this all happened when we were away at church.  So very shortly after arriving home, we had a nice visit from the neighbor giving us a recap of the morning's events.  Fortunately, the dogs were all fine and no property was damaged.  Other than our very old fence, that is.  In Penny's defense, the fence had become extremely run down and unstable.  And with big dogs on BOTH sides of it, it was a miracle that it lasted this long.  It really was pretty naive of us to expect it to hold even with so many fosters in and out of our home.  Lucky for us, we have a nice neighbor who understands both life with dogs and the nature of fences.  We all plan to put up a new one soon.  Until then, ALL loose boards will remain secured by 2x4s. 

It's just an unavoidable fact that puppies NEED to chew.  On a good day, they'll stick mostly to their dog toys.  On other days . . . well, they like to expand their horizons a bit.

Penny, on her not-so-great days, has decided to chew up the following things:  a bug collection jar, a magazine holder, the corner of our backyard bench, a potato, various papers, a viking ship, a potted plant, a mini easter basket, a bag of potting soil, approximately half a carton of baby tomatoes, a broom, and a cordless phone.

Thanks to my acute hearing, she only managed to chew the antenna off the phone before I rescued it.  Shaggy has since patched it up nicely with silicone, and I'm happy to report that it works flawlessly.

I understand Penny's desire to snag the bread off the microwave, or lick the breakfast bowls clean of milk once the kids have gone to school.  I get it that she smells dinner cooking and can't resist propping herself up on the counter with her front paws to get a glimpse of what food was left out.  But potatoes?  And tomatoes?  Not what I would consider typical temptations for dogs.

There was one afternoon that I heard some suspicous sounds coming from the kitchen, so I went to investigate.  She was fully on top of the table--all four feet.  Standing there trying her best to avoid my stern gaze because she KNEW she was doing something wrong.  After ordering her down, and giving her a sound scolding, I noticed that the small bag of tea was missing from J's tea party invitation which had been sitting on the table.  Apparently she had decided to have a little tea party of her own.

So, we have a puppy that likes to chew up dirt bags, eat tea bags, and have occasional light snacks involving potatoes and tomatoes.  Huh.

So why are we keeping her, you may well be wondering.  The timing is far from perfect, with a new baby due to join our family in 3 months.  And we're supposed to be fixing up the house so that we can sell it someday and move into a place where we're not packed in like sardines.

Our first feelings of attachments came when we renamed her.  We love the name Penny.  And who doesn't want to keep a shiny new penny they found?

Another reason can be seen quite clearly by looking at Shaggy's face.  I recognize that smile from pictures I've seen of him as a kid.  Pure delight.  Total happiness.  He's always wanted two dogs and now he has two dogs.  But not just any two dogs.  Two beautiful dogs that get along tremendously well together.

In fact, they LOVE to wrestle, and play tug of war, and share a nap, and stand sentinel at the front window.  They often steal each other's toys, and Penny will try to play keepaway from Charger.  Penny seems to really enjoy biting Charger's cheek when she wants to start a wrestling match.  And Charger is pretty much always game for a little doggie play.  Their timing isn't always ideal in MY opinion, but there's always the backyard when they get too much underfoot.

Now that I think about it, they get along far better than ANY of my children.  And they're much more likely to discourage burglars.  My children are not very fierce.

Of course, Penny doesn't look all that fierce in these photos.  But the potential burglars will never see them.  I probably shouldn't have taken these photos, if I didn't want to keep this dog.  I mean, how can I NOT want to keep this puppy when she gets along so well with my crazy, loving toddler AND looks so adorable in photos with her?!

So Penny gets along fantastically with Charger . . . the kids adore her . . . Shaggy's enraptured with her.  But still, I could steel myself against all these reasons to keep Penny if it weren't for the simple fact that I like her.  Lately, I find myself liking her better than Charger.  At least she doesn't bark at anything that moves.

I like her beautiful, intelligent eyes, that show every emotion that she's feeling.  I like how she sidles over to the kids whenever they sit on the floor, trying to get them to play with her.  I like how she tolerates R's hugs.  It makes me laugh when she catches sight of anyone's bare toes and can't resist licking them.  I like how she rolls over on her back whenever I pet her head as if to say, "That's not good enough.  Give me a belly rub!"  I like how she just can't figure out why J's remote control dinosaur won't play with her.

Hmmm . . . it sort of sounds like I'm turning into a genuine dog person, doesn't it?  Maybe this is just all part of Shaggy's cunning master plan.

But I am still firmly grounded in reality, even as much as this sweet puppy has managed to charm me.  I realize that having two dogs around adds exponentially to the chaos in my home.  I know that when I have a newborn, I generally don't do very well with chaos.  Which means that we have three months to train the worst of the bad habits out of these dogs.  No more counter surfing.  No more table top exploits.  No more excessive barking.  Wish us luck.  We're going to need it!

But speaking of cunning master plans . . . since we seem to be running out of room on our sofa, maybe this will get me closer to getting that nice, sectional one I've always wanted.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Beautiful Things

Yesterday, as I was snapping some pix of the kids in the front yard, J tells me, "It's getting close to Mother's Day so you're gonna start getting beautiful things."  And he hands me a bunch of little flowers he had picked. 

Little does he know that I already have the most beautiful things of all.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Wildflower

Considering the fact that this child was by far my cuddliest baby, I am sometimes mystified by how she has turned into such a whirlwind.  Don't get me wrong, she still loves to cuddle and snuggle and be held.  But it is also becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with her.  

She is forever wanting to go outside, or play in the sink, or dump out all the toothpicks, or locate the jelly beans, or get out the magnets, or give the dog a biscuit, or color with markers, or climb all over the back of the sofa, or get into my jewelry box, or help herself to some snacks, etc., etc., etc.

And she's a very interesting mix of stubborn and sweet.  She's wonderfully compliant in many things, especially when compared to her big brother.  But she's also developing a VERY LARGE independent streak.  If she decides she's thirsty for milk, she gets a cup, climbs up on the table, takes the lid off and begins to pour herself some.  She is typically oblivious of such minor details as how full the milk carton is or weather the spout is lined up with her cup.  So far I've been lucky enough to catch her before having a huge milk puddle to cry over.  I haven't been so lucky in respect to the canister of flour or the bag of cranberries. 

She's also beginning to INSIST on doing more and more things herself.  Which is sometimes annoying, especially when we're already running late for a doctor's appointment or for the kindergarten pick up.  But I TRY to remind myself that independence is good.  That it's one of the major goals when it comes to raising kids.  That I'll be grateful she has achieved it in the coming years.

But until then, I will still worry about the fact that she helps herself to the antibiotic ointment whenever she gets anything that could possibly be considered an "owie."  Or that she has a tendency to get into my purse and dump out all the change.

There are days that she is totally and completely exasperating.  When I have to ask her, "What am I going to do with you?!"  To which she invariably replies, "Put me in the fridge!" 

And then there are days when I find myself in awe of what a beautiful creature she is.  Kind of like a wildflower.  When I wonder at how lucky I am that she is growing in my patch of earth.  And I realize that I've had so very little to do with her creation.  The sun and the earth and the water that have helped her grow into who she is--all that has been provided by God, not me.  And all I'm left with is a profound sense of love and gratitude that I get to share in the wonderful beginnings of her life.

She's loving and funny and quirky.  She's not at all afraid to stand up to the dog when he's doing something she doesn't approve of.  She's extremely excitable, making even the most mundane things interesting and fun.

She is at the center of so many things that make us all laugh,
that fill our home with joy.  

Sitting around the dinner table, we'll often hear her make a small tick, tick sound which will grow in volume before exploding into a loud, "pakchouuu!"  I'm assuming her fascination with both bombs and bad guys has something to do with her older siblings and their overactive imaginations.  But I do find it funny that so often she is the instigator.  She LOVES to pretend that a bad guy is coming or that there's a bomb in the room. 

I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised by it.  I realized that she was a bit of a thrill seeker way back when she was learning to walk.  Because the part she enjoyed the most, the part that unfailingly made her laugh, was when she teetered . . .  and teetered . . . and then fell down with a thud.

So as much as I might like to compare her to a flower, I do realize that she is and always will be, a wildflower.  One who does not submit to every whim of the gardener.  One who blooms when and where SHE chooses. 

I think we may be in for somewhat of a wild ride with this child.  But hopefully, she'll continue to bring us joy and make us laugh along the way.

Monday, April 5, 2010

My Favorite Holiday

I love Easter.  I really do.  My husband claims that he didn't know it was my favorite holiday until last year.  I think he just has a bad memory.

Growing up, his family didn't do the Easter bunny thing.  And they really only got Easter candy AFTER Easter was over because that was when it was all on sale.  I can understand that.

But the Easter bunny DID come to my house when I was a kid.  So early in our marriage, Shaggy & I had to decide which traditions would prevail.  He wanted to downplay ALL the non-religious Easter associations.  Meaning no candy, no baskets, no egg hunts.

Which left Easter dresses and sugar cookies.  Well, anybody who read my post regarding sugar cookies, knows that there was NO WAY that was going to become our main family Easter tradition.

I do love the dresses, and having three girls has made it all the more fun.  I do feel a little bad for J every year being the odd man out stuck in the middle of all his sisters with their nicely coordinated girlie clothes.  In the beginning, the coordinated outfits were more a result of the ease factor than anything else.  When I found a cute dress at a resonable price, it was just easier to buy two of the same thing than try to search for another outfit.

As time went on, and I became more addicted to photography, Easter became one of the two times during the year when I would muster the necessary energy to try for a nice family photo.  And a nice photo of all the kids together.  Hence the color coordination.

And since I go through the herculean effort of making sure the kids are all clean and nicely groomed AT THE SAME TIME (yes, that is the tricky part), I figure I might as well try to get some good individual portraits as well.  The kids have come to expect, if not look forward to, a photo shoot every Easter and Christmas.  How they suffer having me as their mother.

But someday, hopefully, they will be grateful for these photos.

We took advantage of the orchard blossoms this year and did our portraits there.  It was quite a bit before Easter, but there's no way I could come up with a better spring-like background than that!

There really is something truly amazing about being completely surrounded by beauty.  Stepping into the orchards is like stepping into another world.  Sounds are muted.  The aroma of fruit and blossoms fill the air.  Every glance, in any direction, is met with a scene that uplifts the soul.

As for our family Easter traditions, we came to a compromise.  No Easter bunny.  Which was fine with me.  I was never really all that attached to him anyway.  Or is it a her?  See what I mean, I don't even know the poor bunny's gender.

But the egg decorating and hunting stayed.  And the baskets, although we don't really fill them up on Sunday morning.  We mostly use them for the Easter egg hunt, which we do on Saturday, leaving Sunday for family, food and religion. 

I love the colorful nature of the Easter season.  It's not confined to a few traditional colors like so many other holidays.  Pretty much any color under the sun is embraced by this holiday--with the possible exception of black.

These stuffed bunnies are as close as we come to the Easter bunny.  Although one of them, you'll notice if you look closely enough, is actually a bear in a bunny costume.  He's my favorite.  But honestly, I don't remember where any of these bunnies came from.  We pull them out of the Easter box every year, to the children's delight.  But I don't think I purchased ANY of them.  Apparently my memory isn't so great, either.

We haven't had our egg hunt at the same place every year.  Sometimes we've joined our church group, or some friends.  But this old estate, turned city park is one of our favorite spots.  The olive avenue won out this year.  And it turned out pretty great--who knew there were so many perfect egg hiding spots on an olive tree?

We send the kids off on a walk while we hide the eggs.

And we don't always get all that creative in our hiding spots.  But considering that we have a two-year-old, that's probably a good thing.

Once we allow the kids back in the vicinity, we have to specify how many eggs of each size and type they are allowed to collect.  Somewhat controlling, I know.  But over the years we've learned that it's the best way to avoid any egg fights.  There's NOTHING like bickering to ruin the whole event for everyone.  Besides, it's a great way to make sure we actually collect all of our eggs.

And then, of course, comes the sugar frenzy.  The part the kids love most of all.  Some years we worry about their health and try to regulate their intake.  Which only makes it all the more annoying.  So usually, we just encourage them to listen to their bodies to decide how much candy to eat at a time.

J told us several times this year that his tummy told him he could eat one egg full of candy, plus two more.  Of course with him, the peeps went first.  They've always been his favorite.

Not surprisingly, his candy was gone first.  His tummy seems to be more lenient than his sisters'.  R forgets about her candy unless she sees it, so she unknowingly shares a lot with her parents.  K finishes hers a day or so after J.  And S, who ironically is the most impatient of my kids, always has lots of candy left long after everyone else has finished theirs. And she always shares with them.  She really is an amazingly generous soul.

One of my favorite Easter memories comes from a prayer S said a few years back.  "Please help us remember the true meaning of Easter . . . and not get sick from eating too much candy."

Pretty much sums it all up for me.  Happy Easter!!