Saturday, September 26, 2009

Houses and Dogs

Looking at the calendar, I realize that a year ago we had already closed on this house, and were 2 days away from the big move. It sounds trite to say "I can't believe we've been here for a year". EVERYBODY says that, so you would think people would re-adjust their expectations of how fast time goes by, but no matter how often you note the speediness of time, and no matter how many times other people warn you, it still always comes as a shock.

A year ago we were heading to Chicago. This year, I have no Chicago trip on my schedule, but Will is headed up there for a bachelor party in 3 weeks :-P I am quite irritated that I am not invited. Last year it took us FOREVER to get all of our stuff out of the old house, but as of a couple weeks ago the old house is officially sold and we don't have to hear about it anymore! I took a spin through the old neighborhood last week while I was out there visiting my seamstress, and was surprised by the nostalgia that hit me. I am not really nostalgic about the house, but I definitely am about the neighborhood. We did live there for 5 years, and for a large portion of that time I spent every morning out jogging or walking, so I knew everyone's dogs, I knew whose mailboxes will be covered with pretty clematis in the fall, and I knew the odd air currents that resulted in warm pockets in certain places on chilly mornings. I haven't done much (any) morning jogging or walking in this neighborhood, so I don't know it nearly as well. And even though the houses are closer together in this neighborhood, the people are more distant. We wave to our neighbors and talk over the back fence, but of course it can't compare to how well we knew the people in the old neighborhood where Will grew up.

But I love living close to everything. Driving out to my parents house makes me wonder how I survived before. The community pool was great this summer, Emily loves it and learned to be quite a proficient swimmer (with waterwings). The house itself has been great too, with only a pinhole leak in a pipe to marr an otherwise incident-free year. Knock on wood and cross everything that we continue to enjoy such good luck.

The only bad thing about this house is the Jehovah's Witnesses. They come around practically every Saturday morning, and although we have incredibly busy Saturday mornings, we somehow manage to be home for what has to be a large percentage of their visits. We had one doozy of a visit back at our old house when the woman, seeing that I was holding a 5-day old baby, thought it would be somehow appropriate to give me a pamphlet about losing a child. Luckily though, that was one of the only visits at the old house. But here we're much luckier. Will is comfortable telling them to sod off, but I am a sucker. I look at the poor woman's shaking hands, I notice the tie-clad man's awkward demeanor, and I can't just tell them to get off my porch. But that doesn't mean I don't hate that they come. When I make the decision to step out of my house and into the world, I do so with the understanding that I may run into a person or two who I would rather not deal with. But when I'm safely ensconced in my own house, I shouldn't have to deal with such people seeking me out. I can't stand their "it's just logic" approach, it makes me long to shoot their arguments full of holes whether I agree or not, but doing so would only encourage them so I usually just adopt the blob approach. If I just stand there staring at them vacantly, they eventually go away. But not forever, oh no. They'll be back next Saturday to take up "just a minute of my time".

One thing that is the same this year as last year is that I am still throwing money hand over fist into dog maintenance. Last year we were trying to figure out a way to keep Mingus' skin from falling off. This year I am spending money to try to turn Mingus into a dog I can actually live with. A couple weeks ago, I was ready to get rid of him. Despite the fact that whenever I hear of a family getting rid of their dog I feel like they should have tried harder and stuck it out, I was willing to swallow my pride and be that schmuck. Now that Emily is not just mobile, but steady and quick enough to catch up with a dog, we are having problems. He nips her to herd her, which is one thing, but he also nips her out of anger, which is one step away from actually biting her. Of course we never leave them alone together, and of course we work with both of them, teaching Emily that if he's growling or running away it means he doesn't want to be played with, and having her feed the dogs and give them treats to establish that she is fun and good and she controls their resources, making her higher up in the pack than them. But despite our efforts, things seem to be getting worse. Emily will come up to me crying with a red mark on her arm because Mingus nipped her, and that is not ok. I've worked on this dog for 6 years, and I've gotten nowhere. I can deal with him being an asshole to me, but I can't deal with a dog that bites my daughter.

So we're making a last-ditch effort and calling in the big guns. We hired a trainer to come out to our house and give us advice, and I think it went well. She pointed out that despite Mingus' aggressive, in-your-face behavior, everything points to him being an anxious, frightened dog. And even though he will come sit next to me and whine, or even put his head on my lap, he does not like it when I pet him. I suspected as much, but his mixed signals have kept me guessing. She also pointed out that dogs have mental capabilities that are on par with that of a 2.5 year old, so it helps me a lot to think of him as a frightened toddler vs. the belligerent old man he acts like. I am not supposed to pet him ever, and we determined that when Emily is running around and Mingus starts getting flighty (i.e. always), we are supposed to quietly close him in his room with a peanut-butter stuffed kong ball until he calms down. These methods seem to have helped so far. We haven't had any nips today at least.


I have a dog living in my house who I don't like, and who doesn't like me. I cannot pet him. I have to tiptoe around him, lest he get too anxious and bite my daughter. 10 times a day I have to gently and lovingly escort him to his room and give him a treat just to avoid having him lash out. There is really no plan to make him a good dog who we can all enjoy, there are only ways to try to keep him calm enough that he won't hurt people. It is obvious that Emily's very existence only worsens his anxiety. I am not happy, and he is not happy. Is it really worth it?

I will make the effort. I will talk to the vet about anxiety meds for the dog when baby Charlotte arrives, as suggested by the trainer, because stress will be high for all of us and the last thing we need is to have to spend our time coddling the dog. I will do these things because if the time comes to get rid of him, I want to have a clear conscience. I want to be able to say we made every effort.

But I still feel that if we are ever able to find a different home for him, a place where we know he won't be killed or forced to live out the rest of his life in a cage, I will jump at the chance.

Maybe that makes me a bad person. Especially because "there are no bad dogs, only bad owners". But I also know there is only so much I can take.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The naming of kids is a difficult matter...

I have been meaning to write this post for awhile, but I have been putting it off because to people I know in person (who make up about half of my readership) it will be boring. So if you have seen me in the past month, feel free to skip this entry.

It's about the baby's name. You may have noticed that I have kind of gone back to referring to her as "the baby" since we found out "the baby" was a she. Zippy just sounds too masculine now that we know for sure we have a girl in there. I didn't want to randomly start using her name until I had explained it, so I went back to "the baby" until I got around to writing this post.

SO, from now on I plan to refer to the baby as Charlotte, which is her name. I am sure we'll field many inquiries about whether or not we named our daughters after the Bronte sisters (no we didn't), but we like the name enough to deal with it. We picked out all our kids' names long ago, and we still like it, so that's that.

But with Emily, her middle name was a no-brainer, since in my family the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter etc. has the middle name Elizabeth. There's a little ring to go along with the name and everything, which you may recall I just received recently from my aunt with great pomp and circumstance and quavery weeping. Charlotte's middle name has proved more difficult. The first one we came up with during our trip to St. Thomas 3 years ago; Amalie. We think this name is beautiful, but it has several problems:

1. Charlotte Amalie is the capital of St. Thomas, and people who know that might wonder why on earth we named our daughter after a city, or worse they might think we named our daughter after where she was conceived, like in that dumb car commercial for the Chrysler Concorde where for some reason the little girl who was conceived in Savannah had a southern accent even though her mom didn't and the whole thing was just all weird and EW.

2. People who DON'T know that Charlotte Amalie is the capital of St. Thomas (or who aren't Dutch) which is probably the large majority of people she'll meet in her life will think "Amalie" is pronounced Ah-mah-lee, when in fact it's pronounced Ah-mahl-ya. I guess we could technically change the spelling to "Amalia" to avoid that issue, but then people would think we're just ignorant and tried to name our daughter after the capital of St. Thomas but spelled it wrong.

3. Amalie is the Dutch version of the name Emily, and as you may remember, we already have a daughter with the name Emily.

SO, I decided it might be best to at least try to find a different middle name. I liked the flow of Amalie, so I tried to come up with something that worked in kind of the same way. I came up with Olivia. I like it, everyone else seems to like it, but Will does not :-( And his opinion is kind of important.

On top of that, I recently re-connected on Facebook with a girl who I was friends with in high school (and who Will had a big crush on in high school before he started dating me). Her name is Charlotte, and shortly after I came up with the middle name Olivia, I found out that she has a dog named Olivia. How stalker-ish would that be? "Hi, I just started talking to you again after 10 years and guess what!!!!1 I just named my daughter after you and your dog! Now we'll be best friends forever, right?!?!?" ::crazed, maniacal laughter:: I actually mentioned it to her at our high school reunion in June, and I must not have come off as TOO crazy because she just laughed and said to go for it, but still. It feels stalker-ish.

The idea of using a family name on Will's side is appealing, since Emily's middle name is a family name on my side, but as far back in his family tree as either of us knows, there aren't any female names that we particularly like. Plus his family is big on re-using names, so every name has usually been used multiple times already. My MIL says she has a book with lots of family members in it that she'll lend us, so maybe there'll be something in there that we like.

I just want her to have a pretty middle name. Sure, you don't use it much, and as a girl she may not even use it anymore after the first 20-some years, but I just don't want her to dread taking standardized tests at school because the teacher calls you up by your full name and "Oh no! Now all my friends are going to laugh at me because they'll know my middle name is Mildred!"

If we don't come up with something else, she'll probably end up Charlotte Amalie. I'm probably worrying too much about what other people will think anyway. In the meantime, we're still brainstorming, so feel free to offer suggestions. I'm kind of trapped in the mindset that it needs to be a 4-syllable name that ends in "a", but maybe if someone comes up with a good suggestion that I hadn't thought of it'll knock me loose from my name rut.

Otherwise she might just have to deal with a lifetime of "Did your parents conceive you in St. Thomas?"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The agony and the ecstasy

Some of you may be wondering, where are all the pregnancy gripes? I haven't heard her complain about anything for days at least. Well, truth be told, for the past week or two I haven't really had any. But my body doesn't want things to get boring around here, so in the last couple days it put an end to the boring-ness and started up with the SCIATICA! That word just LOOKS scary.

I remember it from last time; I think it started later on in the pregnancy though, but it didn't stick around the whole time so that is comforting. It is both the best and worst pregnancy issue that I have. I say worst because when I bend or turn or step a certain way, an intensely painful jolt runs down the back of my right leg, usually causing me to emit a loud noise or exclamation and alarming everyone in my vicinity. It also provides low-level background pain while I'm walking. So yeah, the pain sucks.

But it's also quite manageable compared to other problems, because if I lay down it goes away entirely. Most issues or injuries or illnesses you encounter are kind of just THERE, no matter what you do, and when you're in constant and inescapable discomfort it starts to wear on you. But I can get perfect relief just by lying down, so it's bearable. Unfortunately I can't lie down all the time (well maybe I should say fortunately, because lying down all the time would basically be bedrest and I SO don't want to be on bedrest) so I have to deal with it. When I lay down in the evening to make it stop though, I tend to fall asleep, resulting in 11 hour sleep marathons. But at least I don't require a nap when I do that, and I am more productive during the day.

Like today I got all my errands done, and then came home to continue being productive. I picked out a crib for the baby and found the cheapest place to buy it, scheduled an appointment (for tonight) with my seamstress so that we can hopefully make me look like slightly less of a rhinoceros in the bridesmaid dress I have to wear next month, got the house clean again, showered, and started dinner.

OH! And in news that is interesting only to me, I also did a little research and confirmed my suspicion that pregnant ladies only need to avoid RAW MILK soft cheeses. I was wistfully caressing a particular hunk of cheese at the Common Market today when a person who worked there happened by and exclaimed "THAT is the BEST cheese I have ever had!" She went on extolling the virtues of the cheese for about 3 minutes while the saliva ran down my chin and onto my belly, and when I saw that it was pasteurized milk I decided to just hope that a bite or two wouldn't give me listeria and I bought the stuff. When I got home I discovered I can enjoy it guilt-free, and OH, it's like it came from heaven's refrigerator. It's bleu-cheesy in the middle, and somehow it magically fades to brie-like with a rind on the outside. It embodies both of the types of cheese (well all 3, because it's goat milk) that I have missed so very much while pregnant and IT'S ALL MINE!

Good thing I'm only cutting down on processed sugar today and not on fat. Although it probably won't help me look like less of a rhinoceros in my dress. Oh well, I'm sure the baby is enjoying it too, and it has, like, calcium and stuff so it's, like, actually good for me, and yeah.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Finally a lull

I am no longer my daughter's best friend. Not because my best friend status was pulled in a fit of toddler-rage, but because I have been replaced. By a feather. And also a monster.

I hosted a bridal shower for my sister-in-law this weekend, and as she is not a very flowery-shower type person, the theme was pink pirates (and smoothies). It turned out to be lots of fun, we got to tease Margaret a lot, and we found out from Grandma that some of the best meat in a pig comes from behind the eyes. Mmmmm, can't wait for the pig roast next month. I know where I'll be aiming MY fork!

I acquired a pirate hat and a pink feather boa for Margaret to wear, and in the course of the day the boa dropped a couple feathers here and there, one of which Emily formed a very strong attachment to. The next morning she could be found wandering dreamily around, gently cradling the feather in her hand and periodically rubbing it across her cheek. She walked up to me at one point, held up the feather, and said "This my best friend". Now I knew when she told me a couple weeks ago that I was her best friend that it wouldn't last forever, but I was thinking I would end up being usurped by a kid; not, well, a feather. But a bit later, she made me feel better by saying "Feather Emmy's best friend, and Monster Emmy's best friend, and Mommy Emmy's best friend too!" So at least I now share best friend status with the feather and Emily's imaginary friend Monster, who is a recent and mysterious addition to our household. All we know about him is that he is green and he likes to climb into bed with us. Kinda creepy, if you ask me.

So we made it through Gorham, the shower, and Will's birthday lunch at Fogo de Chao yesterday (so much meat, but SOOOO yummy!), and Emily promptly got sick. Of course I'd rather her NOT be sick, but I sure can't complain about the timing. We have a luxurious stretch of about 3 weeks before any more major events are to take place, so we can just stay home and recover. Plus, even though her head sounds miserably clogged and her nose is a faucet, she is still a little sweetheart and in very high spirits so that is good. She even gave me the slip this afternoon and when I found her several minutes later she was in the backyard violating our "We don't go outside naked" rule. She was not technically in full violation, because she was wearing her pink crocs, but still. I guess we need to work on our "private parts should remain private" lesson some more, but boy is that one difficult with a 2 year old. Especially one who, when her requests to be naked have been fulfilled, always follows them up with "Want to be naked OUTSIDE." We'll have to take this girl to Orient Beach in St. Martin sometime.

Now if you'll excuse me, Emily just faked me out with a claim that she had gone poopy outside, but after investigating now it appears that one of us is bleeding so I should probably go figure that out. We may not have any events coming up, but things certainly aren't dull.

UPDATE: The blood spots I keep finding around the house turned out to be red food coloring from when Emily and I made playdough earlier today. She DID, unfortunately poop in her pants outside, the poop just covertly escaped from her pants before I took them off and once I had determined there was no poop in her pants I was so distracted by the blood that the poop laid undiscovered on the floor of the bathroom for a good 10 minutes until I just heard Will shout in surprise. Definitely not dull.