Friday, July 28, 2017

The HellBeasts

I pretend that I don't like the hounds because, well because a girl only has so much patience to go around and after the inmates and the kids and the adulting I don't want to spend much of it on someone who shits out underwear. But the fact is that I do sort of kind of like them. Even if they're heathens (much like the rest of the family.) The two of them together though is A. FUCKING. LOT. They run for about 15 hours a day. We try to walk them and it's all fine and Andy Griffith until they see another dog and turn into snarling lunging assholes, which in turn makes us look like assholes. Scout keeps digging epic holes in my yard and Atticus acts like we don't know he sleeps on the couch.
Best Guard Dogs Ever

When we got Scout, one of the deals that came with the "free dog to good home" package was a discounted obedience class run by a local pitbull advocacy group. It took me months to get into one, but finally we got in. I've never done dog training so I was really interested to see what it was about. I had high hopes for the Stepford dog of my dreams.

The first class was "humans only" and we spent TWO HOURS sitting under an overpass getting schooled on all things pitbull. TWO HOURS.  I bet we spent twenty full minutes on red nose vs blue nose (*spoiler* there is no difference!) These people have great intentions but they are a lot. Also, everyone went around the circle talking about their sweet giant "lovebug" who "just needs some manners" or "gets a little worried around other dogs" or "can't be let out of the crate because he keeps trying to kill our other pets." That last one was met with understanding smiles and murmers of "Oh yeah. I have one of those too."  Uh uh. Nope. Not me. All of the sudden Scout was sounding like a purse dog in comparison to these crazy animals.

The next week I pulled up bright eyed and bushy tailed with my required bag of meat treats (that I lovingly cooked from scratch because "dogs don't respond to regular treats"), two collars (one prong, one regular), a harness, and a special European training leash. And the Hellbeast, who doesn't get to go out much because she's a jerk (but not the eating pets kind of jerk.) Before we unloaded I said I silent prayer that neither of us would die that day.

So picture this. An overpass, covered in philosophical graffitti like "Let's fuck" and "Get bent" and homeless camp leftovers (shit you not.) A circle of big crazy pitbulls all trying to "say hello" (or as I like to call it, "rip out each others throats.") There's one very sweet teenager with the daintiest little dog I've ever seen, and next to her is this enormous man with a matching enormous pit who apparently doesn't even respond to meat and just slurps out of a water bottle the whole time. There's a sweet older lady with a CRAZY dog that snarls  and lunges at Scout every time we come near her or her stuff (because she's got a full set up including a throw rug). And of course right next to me is the lady who has her shit all figured out, with her giant well behaved dog that she just got three weeks ago. There's the couple across the way that move in tandem and keep dropping their leash even though rule #1 of pit class is "Don't ever, ever, ever drop the leash." I'm surveying the situation when I realize that I've got a freezer bag full of delicious taco meat strapped to my waist and all of these dogs missed breakfast ("so they'll be super focused.")

Really it's not terrible, as long as you don't mind being referred to by your dog's name and you don't mind the din. We're learning all sorts of useful tricks like how to focus, sit, come, and how to walk without yanking my arm out the socket. And other less useful things like staying when I take a step back, walking a figure eight, and how to keep lunging at the dickhead dog who keeps barking at you even when there is delicious oily meat in your face. Also, she still can't take a decent selfie and it's starting to be a problem.

So, good news is that we didn't die. And I get to spend the next several weekend mornings under an overpass, trying to both teach my dog "Focus," not get stabbed with a hypodermic, and not get mauled.  But you bet your ass I'm not dropping the leash.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Grown-up Words

I was sitting in committee today with the warden, captains et. al (aka muckity mucks), right after we saw a man with an exceptionally colorful vocabulary. Imagine a 12 year old using every swear word he's ever heard. "Son of a bitch mother fucker dirty c*&#..." and on and on and on. I don't really mind when inmates swear, but this was pretty excessive, even for prison. Afterwards we were recovering when my captain stated that he appreciates when people cuss and doesn't trust people who don't or who use the fake swears. I agreed emphatically. "Except kids, obviously." Gulp.

Now, back when Eli was a young lad and started speaking when he was ridiculously little (think Baby Stewie),  I tried really hard to be mindful of my language. I really, really did. That's not precious any way you spin it. And I failed spectacularly. I swear like a sailor. I drop F-bombs like they're rainbow sprinkles. I was once told, "The thing about you is you seem so sweet, but then you start talking." There was no fucking way I was going to be able to restrain myself.

After trying to convince his daycare teacher that he was saying, "Bucket" and getting an incident report (really) because Eli "Stated loudly 'Son of a *&!@# [their edits, not mine]' at a friend when their tower fell over" (which I absolutely blamed on C despite knowing full well where he learned that) we decided to take a different approach. We would let him swear with permission. That way he learned how to swear appropriately, which I believe is an underappreciated skill, and we didn't have to keep unsuccessfully censoring ourselves.

Now all three kids know that they have to ask before they can let it rip, and if the situation is appropriate we let them. Stub your toe? Let it fly. So mad you could shake? I get it. Go for it. At dinner with your grandparents? Nice try, kid. Shut your trap. And it's worked for the most part. No more sheepish apologies or looks of shock in public. No sneaky attempts to get one past us. Eli occasionally tries to use a stand-in like "Frickin" or "hella", and Averson likes to assert that "I'm old enough to say 'Shit'" but in general I am confident I can trust them around decent society.

It's also fun to see what words appeal to them. "Stupid" is a big one. None of them have ever tried to say "Shut up." "Guts" had a good run during the summer of Ramona and Beezus. Eli likes "Hell." Averson really likes "Shit." Syd banged her head the other day, asked if she could swear, and though I expected "stupid drawer!" she let fly a "FUCK!" that matched my own for tone and affect. It was a thing of beauty and I couldn't have been prouder. After I made sure that the kitchen window wasn't open, of course.

So that's my child-rearing advice, inspired by an inmate who wanted to use every word he knew. Teach your kids to swear. It's good for you. It's good for the world.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dream Big, Little Pig

Have you heard of this book? I bought it for the girls during one of my "intentional book purchase" kicks because it's about a pig who figure skates, so it fulfilled the body pos niche. Like most of my misguided "intentional purchases" I, of course, hated reading the damn book (no offense, Ms. Yamaguchi). Over the past 100 readings though it's really grown on me. Plus there are sparkles. Sparkles make everything awesomer. The whole premise is that Little Pig has big dreams and doesn't let anyone tell her that she can't be successful, even when she's not the best or the most perfectly suited. It's quite sweet. And like various other ear worms, "Dream big, little pig!" has been ricocheting around in my brain lately.

*Insert existential angst here, because I'm boring myself at this point* One of the weird but in retrospect obvious aspects of pursuing an advanced degree is that there are a multitude of hurdles that you must overcome. First you have to get into undergrad. Then you have to score well on the GRE. Next is the graduate school search and admission process (pro tip, do not base your search on admission rates or how pretty the campus is. Dream big, Little Pig!). Once you're in graduate school, you have to pass practicum, write a thesis, and pass comps. If you're super masochistic, you choose the one faculty adviser with a previous career as an editor, so you actually get to write about seventy million thesises (thesi?) That gets you a Masters and allows you to promote to the Doctoral Program. Once there, you've got to write and defend your dissertation (with the same editor/advisor/mentor), score an internship, possibly move across the country, and try to get published somewhere along the way. Complete your internship without dying and now you're a doctor (but not that kind of doctor)! But wait! There's more!

Now you need a grown-up job. Get the job. Move across the country again. Try to act like a professional adult when less than two weeks ago you were "just the intern." Get your 1500 hours of supervised, post-doctoral experience. Neurotically tally those hours in 15 minute increments. Once you've done that, now you apply to take the first licensing exam. Study for that for anywhere between 2 weeks and 6 months (depending on how new your newborn is.)  Hopefully pass that test, despite it having words you've literally never seen before on it. Now you get to study for and sit for the state specific laws and ethics exam. Study for that for anywhere between 1 week and 3 months (again, depending on how old your baby is and how desperately you need the raise.)  Pass that test. Then...

That's it. You're done. There are no more prescribed hurtles. You are a legit, grown-up, signing doctor. There is nothing left for you to do on your academic journey.

I personally found that moment overwhelming, so I try to prepare people for it. You go from YEARS of always having something you should be working on/studying for/stressing about to... not. For neurotic student type people, it's a huge shift. I always recommend that people take up a hobby or set another goal for themselves. Personally, I moved, had babies, got dogs, bought houses, took up running, and made a lot of stuff. Each of these things has given me a goal, a task, something to obsess about and to accomplish.

Lately I've been feeling the twitch that often precedes a baby, a move, or a  new obsessive hobby but I'm also somewhat at a loss for what I want to do. Learn Spanish? Train the HellBeasts? Volunteer with a local agency? Take up decoupage? Become the most overextended Scout mom in history? All of the options floating around are simultaneously exhilirating and overwhelming.

At the other end of the spectrum from Dream Big, Little Pig is a book that I was gifted called The Circle Maker. The section I've been reading (and re-reading, and re-re-reading) is about setting goals and making them big. With those two books in mind, I've been thinking a lot about what it is that I want to accomplish and where I want to focus my energy. It's a work in progress, but what I've come up with so far is:

  •  I want to write more. I feel like I used to be a much better writer and I know that my writing has suffered from neglect. (Gah! I just went through my archives. Faithful readers, thank you! I used to be so much funnier! I promise, I'll up my game.) I want to grow this blog, or develop a second blog, that encompasses both my personal and professional ramblings. I also want to look for opportunities to publish elsewhere. 
  • I want to plan a real, legit vacation. Next year all three of our kids are going to Grandkid's Camp, which means that C and I can take an honest-to-goodness vacation together. Maybe even on an airplane! There's a whole other post there, seeing as the only trips we've ever been on alone (including our honeymoon) have involved tents or sleeping in dorm rooms. 
  • I want to start exercising again, but not for the sole purpose of getting skinnier (because I've come to accept that that's not happening.) I want to be stronger though, because one of the best descriptors of the women in my family is "They can lift heavy shit." And I'd like to lift heavier shit. I'd also like to look good walking away, if you catch my drift. 
  • Be outside more. I've accepted that I can't/shouldn't garden and it's really, really hot here, but there are so many opportunities to be outside and I waste a lot of them. I'm starting with walking the dogs more, which will also serve the goal of training the HellBeasts. 
  • I want to stop being so fucking angsty. There is a lot of good in my life. I have a great family, a decent house, a good paying job with great people and the potential to (insert flutes here) "Make a difference in the world." I really need to get off my pity pot. 
I'm posting these for two reasons. The first is that we all know that if you put it on the internet, it becomes real. I need the accountability of having strangers know that I've set goals (it makes sense in my head, don't ruin the dream.) The second is that I want to keep these in the foreground. I want to make intentional choices and to allow myself to "Dream Big, Little Pig." Maybe writing more will turn into a goal of writing a book. Maybe exercising more will turn into competing in Crossfit.  Maybe I'll learn Spanish and plan a vacation to Puerto Vallarta. I honestly don't know yet. But I'm kind of excited to find out! 
OMG! I was looking for a rando picture because a post this long deserves a picture and look what I found! Kismet!
Please enjoy this picture of my favorite Animal Researcher dreaming with her pig :) 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


I miss the Bigs when they're at their grandparents, but there is something about being the only kid that makes this one's light shine. She has been loving having our undivided attention, and I love getting to hear all the things she has to say. Lately she's been obsessed with being an "Animal Researcher" (thank you Wild Kratts.) 
The librarian showed her the animal non-fiction section (Section 584, she'll proudly tell you) and she was thoughtfully chose her three books; Elephants, Dolphins, and Wolves if you're interested.She couldn't believe there was a whole aisle for animal research. It has to be "animal research," by the way, and she'll correct you if you just say "animals."

She asked for a research journal, which made me happy in the most humblebraggy way. I keep mentioning in my public mommy voice, "Oh! You'll have to put that in your journal! You can draw your observations!" 

 This is her lab. She spent nearly an hour dictating this to C so he could draw it. Now she's bugging us to start building it. Oops. 

When we were in San Francisco, Averson told anyone who would listen that she was an animal researcher. Every time, I humbly looked on with a look that I'm sure said, "I know! She's a firecracker, that one. I have no idea where she gets it! Oh no, couldn't possibly be my stellar parenting!" One sweet lady started a conversation and asked if Avery had any pets. Avery told her that "Yes, I have two dogs. And my mom's friend is going to get me an animal to cut open!" I was laughing too hard to explain that my friend is a science teacher who'd offered to help Avery do a dissection. Partly because what kind of psychopath four year old wants to do a dissection? I haven't actually watched Wild Kratts, but I'm pretty sure that's not a regular segment. Last night she suggested to my sister that, while she's on vacation, maybe she could kill some animals and send them back to us? It would be so great if she could do that. 

#blessed #psychokids #servesmeright

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A new tradition

My sister's in town! We've done a lot of sitting and day drinking and napping with babies, but we did rally to go to San Francisco and go shopping on The Haight one day. We went last year too (and bought pants off a stranger in the street.) This year was less hippy and more drunken, psychotic homeless people who wanted to show us their spiders in the handle of Bacardi (to which I helpfully said, "I wouldn't drink that") and later try to lock us in a macabre shop, sing songs made up completely of the different words for vagina, or warn us about the windows . Still fun, but in a very different way. Averson, in her animal loving glory, stopped to pet everyone's dog. Everyone being all of the "colorful characters" on Haight and Ashbury. I think part of the reason it was still fun is maybe because pot is legal now, so stopping in one place for too long anywhere on Haight is bound to get you a little teensy bit of a contact high. MOTY. But we did discover that Averson can hold her own in a dance off with indie house music played from a scratchy tablet.


The most hipster vandalism ever

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Wild(ish) West

I had a work thing at a prison in BFE Nowhere, so C and the girls tagged along so we could make a day trip out of it. BFE Nowhere did not disappoint. There was this adorable little town full of adorable shops, including a soda fountain that had an UNDERGROUND BOOKSTORE. It was everything you could hope for and I sort of want to live there forever. 

Do you see the rock floors?! And it was about 10 degrees cooler and smelled like a cave. 

There were chickens. This is a state park, so there was a sweet ranger feeding the chickens. Averson helpfully told her, "My mom really wants to feed the chickens!" Which is how I ended up with a handful of dried worms and brine shrimp, getting vigorously pecked by strange chickens. The things we do for children...

The girls also panned for gold. They were thrilled by their "gems." Side note, apparently my driveway is also made of gems. Who knew?  

Ever since our trip to Denver, Syd has fancied herself a safe cracker. I'll probably regret egging her on when she's doing 20-life, but for now it's pretty adorable.