Left to Go Left

I had the honor of chaperoning Full Speed and some classmates for their sixth grade trip to Sea World.  Thankfully, Mad Dog was able to attend.  Trust me, if he can manage a myriad of employees at work, seven twelve-year-old boys were a piece of cake.  It helped that they were all well-behaved, too.

As the day drew to a close, Mad Dog escorted our gang back to the bus home and Full Speed stayed with me.  We decided to hit one more ride before meeting up with Mad Dog at the exit and driving home separately from the class (all sanctioned by Full Speed’s teacher of course). Of all the things he could pick, Full Speed chose the flamingo-shaped paddle boats.  I wasn’t entirely sure this is what he truly wanted, but he’s a smart kid who takes after his Dad.  Sometimes you pick the stuff that you only kind of like because you know the important lady in your life would LOVE it.  And I did.  I really, really did.

After I had paid the fee for our twenty minutes, we fitted ourselves with life jackets and headed to the dock.  The attendant quickly went over instructions.  He said something to the effect of ‘go left to go left, go right to go right’.  He was referencing the way to manipulate the steering apparatus that was centered between our seats.  I followed his directions and we were off to the races….but, not really.  The harder we pedaled and the more I tried to maneuver us away from the dock, the more we stayed put. Eventually, I was able to get us crookedly angled away as long as we pedaled BACKWARDS.  Let’s just say, I shouldn’t quit my day job.

As we slowly and awkwardly floated out to sea, I casually said, “Full Speed, why don’t you try steering?”

He grabbed the control and in less than 30 seconds had us on a straight path.  He steered the paddle boat as if he had been doing it his whole life.  Turns out, you didn’t ‘go left to go left’.  Instead, you actually had to do the opposite.  Since I wasn’t particularly prideful about my gaping inefficiencies as a paddle boat captain, I sat back and enjoyed the ride.  Apparently, knowing how to actually steer properly makes everything a whole lot more smooth.

As we floated about, I had this out-of-body moment.  It was almost as if I was looking at Full Speed as how he could possibly be as a grown man.  Not surprisingly, he appeared a lot like Mad Dog.

I thought back to when I was twelve.  At that point in my life some fundamental aspects of my personality were formed.  My sensitivity, my empathy, and my creativity are all still a part of the grown-up version of me.  As I looked at Full Speed calmly navigating the waters before us, I thought if he has even half this amount of ease and confidence as a grown-up, he is going to do just fine.

Best paddle boat ride ever.

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The Story of a girl and her White Fluffy Dog

A wise person had once told the girl, “The road to true love is never easy.”  And, they were right.  It hadn’t been easy.  The girl didn’t mind because she was happily in love with her Buckeye.  Their relationship was finally everything she knew it could be and then some.  They had moved in together and lived across from Wrigley Field.  Pure magic.

Sometimes, at night, as the girl waited for her handsome Buckeye to come home after a long day’s work and an even longer commute, she would get a little bit lonely.  She thought about how to remedy this and knowing her Buckeye’s career path was only gearing up, she decided to get a dog.  She had never had a dog in her whole life.  The great thing about being a grown-up is that if you want a dog, you get to have a dog.  The girl was not impulsive in nature so she researched and pondered and then researched and pondered some more.  Eventually she decided she wanted a Bichon Frise because small, white and fluffy seemed like perfection to her.  On the day she drove to a suburb to meet a slew of Bichons, she felt very confident ‘her dog’ would find her.  And, she did.

At first the girl thought she wanted a boy and that’s all she focused on.  She started to get frustrated with how energetic and bitey they all were and wondered if she would leave empty-handed.  Instead, she opened up her expectations and picked up the first female she could find.

It was love at first sight.

The girl couldn’t explain it but this sweet little Bichon-Poodle was meant to be hers.  She was gentle and loving.  She weighed a whopping 3.2 pounds.  She was perfect.

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The girl brought her home and their adventure began.  It wasn’t always easy or smooth, but the girl quickly forgave her White Fluffy Dog because, well, she was white and fluffy.  She was magic.

Five months after the White Fluffy Dog came into her life, the girl had to go out of town.  She left for a few days and put the White Fluffy Dog’s care into the hands of her Buckeye.  She didn’t think twice about it before she left but she should have.  Once she returned she realized something had changed.  Her White Fluffy Dog still loved her, but now, she loved the Buckeye even more.  At times this would frustrate the girl because she wanted to be loved best, but she got over it.  This dramatic shift in loyalty helped a lot when the girl became a mom.  She was so focused on raising her young Buckeyes, she was grateful that the White Fluffy Dog had the Buckeye to look out for her.  It also helped that the White Fluffy Dog adored the little Buckeyes.  She loved babies, pacifiers, bottles and diapers.  She was always gentle with the little Buckeyes and over the years, tolerated a lot of hands-on rough and tumble play with them.  She adjusted to being a big sister with great aplomb.

 

Life changed drastically when the Littlest Buckeye turned 18 months old.  At this time the girl learned he was severely allergic to the White Fluffy Dog.  As much as the girl loved her White Fluffy Dog, she did what she had to.  The White Fluffy Dog went to live with her Buckeye’s parents.  The White Fluffy Dog lived with them for five long years (extremely long if you ask the Buckeye’s father).

As the LB grew and changed so did his immune system.  On a whim when he was seven, the girl decided to have him tested yet again for his dog allergy.  She almost didn’t believe the results.  Her White Fluffy Dog could come home.  It was magic all over again.

Having her White Fluffy Dog again brought wholeness to the girl’s heart.  The girl could handle all of her White Fluffy Dog’s quirks because of this wholeness.  Yes, the White Fluffy Dog had entered her golden years and was certainly set in her ways, but she was still magic.  She still was that same dog that ran towards you when you were hurting, sick or broken.  If the girl was sad, her White Fluffy Dog would lay down next to her.  The White Fluffy Dog never ran when faced with distress, rather this is when she shined.  There are no words to convey what this meant to the girl.  ‘Everything’ is a good one to start with.  It pretty much meant everything to the girl.

The girl had more time for her White Fluffy Dog as her little Buckeyes weren’t so little.  She walked her every day.  The girl loved these walks.  The girl fed her, brushed her and made sure she had her medicine.  While the White Fluffy Dog still loved the Buckeye the best, she appreciated all the love and care the girl showed her.  She followed the girl everywhere.  The magic continued…until it didn’t.

The White Fluffy Dog had lived 13.5 well-loved years when her body finally started to give out.  The girl was heartbroken.  The day came that the girl and her family had to say goodbye to the White Fluffy Dog.  She had cancer and was bleeding internally.  The White Fluffy Dog was ready to go.  When the White Fluffy Dog’s last moments arrived, the girl bravely held her in her arms.  The girl reasoned they had started out together, that it was only fitting that they were together when it ended.

The space the White Fluffy Dog has left in the girl’s home is enormous.  It is quiet in a way that is unsettling.  The girl now walks around with a White Fluffy hole in her heart.  Her only comfort is knowing that love eventually prevails.

After all, she learned this lesson from the best…

 

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Two Steps forward, One Bike Ride Back

I know as a mom, there is an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t compare your kids.  It’s like apples to oranges, right?  Yes and no.  If all you have known in your parenting history are the actions and behaviors of your firstborn, how can you not apply this knowledge to your second kid?

If you’ve ever read any of my early posts about raising my boys, you know that they both were incredibly stubborn and highly active children.  The good news is that while they remain stubborn at their core, they are thankfully a lot more compliant and much more pleasant to live with.  These behavior changes came over a period of several years and after lots of hard, consistent disciplinary work from my part.  At around the second grade, Full Speed completely transformed.  He became a delight to be around.  He developed manners and empathy.  While he still has spurts of insane, high-energy, they are much easier to handle.  Naturally, I thought that once T.Puzzle hit second grade the same would ring true for him.  I waited and waited, and then I waited some more.  Manners?  Nope.  Being compliant?  Not so much.  Having a filter?  Not on your life.

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His behavior baffled me.  I did all the same things I did with Full Speed, so why wasn’t it sinking if for T.Puzzle?  After a while I began to realize that, wait a minute, they actually are quite different kids.  While Full Speed remained vocal and independent at school, T.Puzzle kept to himself.  Full Speed’s confidence certainly won the respect of his teachers, but T.Puzzle’s quiet nature won them over completely.  Where Full Speed sometimes didn’t get ‘outstandings’ in conduct, T.Puzzle was bringing them home left and right like nobody’s business.  Yet, when he return home from school again, he would be that flip little loose cannon who does not like to be told what to do.  At home, this is where Full Speed shined.

Okay, I get it, these guys are opposites in some regards.  They have to mix it up to keep me on my toes.  I let it go and focused on being grateful that most of the time, away from me, T.Puzzle was a pretty well-behaved kid.  Then, it happened. There was this shift in him.  He has started to remember his manners more, he does things the first time he’s told with less commentary and he actually offers to share things with others on occasion.  I noticed something subtle the other day, too.  I snuggled up to him on the couch and instead of me putting my arm around him, he put his arm around me.  He even began to absently pat me on the back.  Exactly like Full Speed does when he is ‘taking care’ of mom.

To help encourage this new-found growth and maturity, I sent T.Puzzle to his friend’s house by bike.  He did so good.  He called me when he got there and called me to let me know he was on his way home.  When I greeted him by the garage I was so proud of him.

“Mom, my helmet feels weird.”

“Uh, that’s because you are wearing it backwards.”

It’s not a perfect system, folks.  Not by a long shot.

Clean Socks

little Frick and his Legos

The life of a stay-at-home Mom is pretty exciting. I mean between the laundry, the cleaning up and food preparation it’s a wonder I have any time left in my day to blog. Take today for instance. It was action packed (insert sarcasm here). First, I played Legos with little T.Puzzle  (this actually was fun because he was super-giggly) and then in the afternoon I took him to the allergist (this actually was not fun). I told you my life was exciting.

little T.Puzzle snacks while waiting for the doc

Lately I am forgetting that my ‘job’ really is a sum of all its parts. Every sock I wash and put away and every frozen waffle I prepare (I know I am a culinary genius!) are all leading up to something greater. I’m raising children to become what I hope are kind, caring and self-fulfilled adults. When I say it like that, then who am I to defy the laundry gods another round of clean socks?

I don’t struggle with the value of what my job means overall. I do struggle with the seemingly mundane tasks that it sometimes entails. I know at the end of the motherhood trail the journey will be worth it; I’m just not in the mood to vacuum my way there.