Posts Tagged ‘family’


I spent the first part of National Dog Day at the vet with our 15-year-old lab, Sheba. I went along because we weren’t sure she was going to come home.
The rambunctious nine month old puppy that my husband brought home over 14 years ago, has become an old lady. Watching her moving through her day, from the bed in the living room to the bed on the bedroom floor to the front yard, is difficult, but so is the alternative.
How do you judge a dog’s quality of life? She still seems to enjoy her food, although she doesn’t eat anywhere near as much as our other, much younger dog. In spite of the arthritis that makes her back legs so stiff, she still goes out into the yard and occasionally breaks into a trot when she sees a squirrel. She knows her master and her feelings towards him haven’t changed.
It’s a relationship that never really included me. Back in the day, when the rambunctious puppy got to be a nuisance, I was the one who insisted on obedience school, so naturally I was the one who got to bring her.
Sheba has always been a smart dog, a highly “trainable” dog. She is a Labrador retriever, after all. For weeks, the two of us went off to school at a tennis court in town. We practiced sitting and heeling, lying down and staying. One time, I got her roll over. She was a good student, until he came along. He came to observe obedience class after weeks of the two of us working together and as soon as Sheba saw her master over by the fence, she stopped being obedient. It was all I could do to keep her next to me. She wanted him. The teacher told me later that she had never seen a dog react like that.
I didn’t give up immediately, but after a while, I did. She’s always been a one man dog.
Maybe she never forgave me for the quarantine way back when, although none of that was my fault.
It was long ago, when our son was still practicing with his high school cross-country team, but wasn’t yet old enough to drive. I used Sheba to get my husband to drive our son to those early morning practices. Sheba needed a walk anyway, I reasoned. Bring her along; let the boy run and the dog walk and the mom sleep a little later. It would have been a great idea except for the bite incident.
To this day my husband still insists that Sheba never meant to bite that cross-country runner. He said the runner put his hand in the dog’s mouth and scraped it on her passive teeth. I was the one who went and spoke to the police officer who had received the dog bite report. And I was one the one who went home and collected the dog for ten days of quarantine at our local vet’s office. I’m not sure who took it harder, the dog or the master.
He never considered the possibility that she might bite someone else.
For years, he would take her for walks places where he could get away without a leash. I would have liked to go on some of those walks, but I did consider the possibilities and it scared me. But I couldn’t convince him to keep her on her leash.
They both started slowing down about the same time and the daily walks got shorter and shorter. Now, they like to go sit down by the lake. Sheba sniffs around the near the water while her master checks his phone and our younger dog bounds back and forth between them.
The younger dog, Sam, who I thought would be Sheba’s replacement, is now three and a half. We’ve had him for two and a half years. Looking back I can’t remember why I thought we needed a replacement two and a half years ago.
Last week Sheba was diagnosed with a bladder infection and we brought her home with a bottle of antibiotics and the question, how do judge a dog’s quality of life? How do you know when it’s time?

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Lately I’ve been thinking about grandchildren.

I have to start by saying I’m really not in any hurry. While it’s true I know lots of people who are younger than I am and answering to Grandma, I’m not anxious to join their ranks.

Really. I’m not.

The truth is all my children have moved out of their teens into their 20s. My husband and I were blessed with three great kids, who share a fine sense of responsibility and a good work ethic, but I still don’t see them as adults. Why should I?

They have years and years ahead of mortgages and car payments and worrying about the future. They should enjoy their young adult status as long as possible and have all the fun they can while they can.

Once a young adult becomes a parent, most lose that young adult status. While some people become full-fledged adults without ever being parents, and occasionally you run into a parent who just never grew up, for most people that threshold between young adult and real adult comes with the responsibilities of a new generation.

So while my own kids are enjoying their young adult status, I have some time to think about the grandmother I may become. Someday. No hurry.

Our family has always been grandparent deficient. I only remember my mother’s father well. The only memory I have of my mother’s mother is one she would probably hate. I must have been about 6 years old that Easter when my mother sent me next door to my grandparents’ house to show off my new spring outfit. I ran into the house unannounced and directly into my grandmother as she stepped out of the shower. I remember her trying, unsuccessfully, to cover herself up. She died unexpectedly not long after that Easter.

But my grandfather was a great grandparent. I remember him fixing my bike and paying me to pull dandelions in his yard when I needed money for candy. He was at all our special occasions, even when we grew into bored teenagers who didn’t value his presence. I hope he understood that deep down inside, we loved him.

My own children never knew either of their grandfathers, but they did have two wonderful grandmothers, who often seemed to visit at the same time. Many of our Christmas photos feature a grandmother on either side. Sadly, we lost both of them in recent years.

I want to be the type of grandmother my mother was, but I wouldn’t want to have to do it long distance the way she did. Of course, it wasn’t her fault that we kept moving away from her.

Even when we lived on opposite sides of the country, my mother always knew what activities my kids were involved in. She always seemed happy to get the endless dance and baseball pictures, although she finally asked me to stop sending them in frames when her bookcase was overflowing.

When she came to visit she always tried to help. When our youngest was born, it was Grandma who flew across the country to drive the oldest to dance lessons. But they never made it to dance lessons. Grandma got lost and ended up on the other side of Fort Wayne, Ind. Eventually we got her back.

The kids probably never knew how much Grandma was on their side. I still have a long, thoughtful letter she wrote in reply to my complaints about our teenager driving us crazy. Her advice: “Don’t let the teenage turmoil ruin your relationship. Just keep loving your child and she’ll return to you as a young adult.”

Grandma was right, of course.

When my kids are ready, I want to be the type of grandmother who takes the kids for a few days so the parents can get away.

I want to spoil my grandchildren a little bit and then lecture their parents about spoiling them. I want to go back to the Fisher Price aisle at Walmart and buy some more Little People toys and help another generation push legless people around in tiny cars.

Even though I’m really not in a hurry to have grandchildren, I really can’t wait.

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Before our youngest child was born, we told our middle child the new baby was going to be his birthday present. He wasn’t particularly impressed. He wanted a bike.
Having two children with birthdays three days apart used to cause a lot of problems. Back when I was arranging their birthday parties, I could never find a way to combine them. When the older one was hosting roller skating parties, the younger was barely walking. When I took the younger one and her friends to a G-rated movie, the older one was only interested in R-rated movies.
Birthday week was a nightmare when they were both in grade school. Not only did I feel obligated to provide 25 cupcakes for each child’s class, there was also baking required for both the family birthday party and the actual kid birthday party.
I would have been fine with serving purchased cakes, but with two kids needing gifts, parties and special dinners, I needed to pinch pennies whenever possible.
I used to love planning a themed birthday party — back when they were young enough to tolerate my ideas. One of the last themed parties we had happened to be for the oldest daughter, who agreed to a beach party in the basement. Her birthday is in February, so it had to be an indoor party. Even then, none of the invitees wore their bathing suits. We drew beach scenes on long pieces of newsprint and hung them around the walls.
I wasn’t quite crazy enough to import sand and water into our partially finished basement, but I did force my husband to help me make “surfboards.” We cut a piece of plywood to a surfboard-like shape and placed it on a piece of PVC pipe so the kids could balance while we played Beach Boys songs. The kids all thought we were crazy.
For the younger two, birthday week always corresponded with the opening day of the city’s Children’s Zoo when we lived near Fort Wayne, Ind., and I took advantage of that.
First, I had to scour the local Hallmark shops for zoo-themed paper goods. Then I used to load up the little red wagon with snacks and drinks and round up four or five of her friends. I got to know that zoo really well over the years.
We always started with the prairie dogs, which looked like the guinea pigs we had in the basement, and we finished with the petting zoo, which meant chasing the goats out of the little red wagon.
Looking back, I’m wondering if maybe I liked the zoo trips more than the kids did. I’m not sure.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in charge of anything except for the family birthday dinner. With the youngest off at college and the middle child living in his own house, the biggest obstacle is scheduling the festivities.
It took an entire morning of texting, emailing and, as a last resort, calling to pin them down to one dinner. Now comes the complicated menu negotiations.
She wants grilled shrimp, he wants barbecued spare ribs. The older sister, who had her own birthday dinner in February, has diet restrictions to factor in. So salad, shrimp and spare ribs. Yum.
By combining the birthdays, I solve the cake issue. I’ll just buy one cake for everyone. It may have to have one white layer and one chocolate layer, I don’t know.
One thing I do know, with all three of them now in their 20s, I know I’m lucky to have them home for birthday dinners every year. I may have to make 50 cupcakes for old times’ sake. Or maybe not.


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Another column originally published in The Weekly Vista
July 2012

What’s a summer without a family road trip?
Some people might say a summer without a family road trip is a good summer, but not me. I’ve always loved loading the family up and driving somewhere with a cooler full of drinks, a bag of broken chips, some soggy sandwiches and a few car games.
This year I get to do it one more time.
I thought when the kids grew up and moved away, that was the end of family road trips, but I’ve managed to get two of my three children to agree to go with me this summer. So it’s not the entire family, only the female portion.
We’re on our way to a family reunion in Rhode Island, which I figure is about a 24-hour drive. Many people would choose to fly, including both my daughters, but I held out for the car trip.
Driving gives us hours to form close family bonds. It not only gives us a chance to see the country along the way, it also gives us space to bring a bicycle or two. You can’t take your bicycle along if you fly, so that makes driving worthwhile. At least that’s what I told my passengers. I think they might have been willing to sacrifice the bicycles and fly to Rhode Island, but none of us really wanted to spend the money.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about road trips. I know how to pack the cooler and ration out snacks. For example, you want to start out slow with the drinks, so that means limiting the salty snacks. It’s best to start with a couple of small pieces of fruit, like grapes. If the kids don’t want to eat them, they can use them as missiles and pass a few minutes with a food fight.
I’d like to think my daughters are too old for a good old-fashioned food fight, but I’m not so sure. I think putting them in a car together for a few hours may bring out the child in them. If I still had the minivan I used to drive when they were younger, they’d find extra ammunition in the seats. Those grapes must be raisins by now.
Later in the day, chips and soda will calm them down for a few minutes before a bathroom stop. I save the cookies in case I need to use them as a bribe.
When they were younger, we used to bring the old Fisher Price cassette player and listen to books on tape. Back then, the books were often the Berenstain Bears, but in recent years, I’ve discovered grownup books that come on CDs. No one ever wants to listen to my books, but if I put them in anyway, everyone in the family will get interested. There have been times when we actually sat outside the motel room to finish up the end of a chapter.
A portable DVD player has become another trip essential. Television series on DVD work out well. When I travel with my husband, we take turns watching and trade off our driving duties each time an episode ends. That gives us a lot of bathroom stops, which is always a good thing.
The car games have evolved as the years have gone by. I have happy memories of playing the state license plate game as a child. The entire family would be on the lookout for out-of-state plates. My kids were never interested in that. They liked to play the handheld LCD games, which eventually gave way to Game Boys and now smartphones. But even with all the electronics available, I might be able to get them interested in a family sing-along, if the right song comes on the radio or the MP3 player or the iPod.
With only the three of us, it should be easy to find an inexpensive motel room somewhere along the route. I remember when we would only consider a motel that had a pool.
After a day in the car throwing grapes at each other, the motel pool gave the kids a chance to burn off some energy and wash off some fruit juice. Now, a shower should be sufficient, and maybe some cable TV.
When we get to Rhode Island, we have a rented house and extended family waiting. For the first time, my kids won’t be the youngest. My nephew has thoughtfully provided a new generation to take on vacation. Now, he’s the one lugging around a portable crib and diaper bags. I can’t wait to hear his car trip stories!

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The change of seasons means a new start and sometimes a welcome change. Kids go off to school, clubs return to regular meetings and closets are rearranged. For me the change of season always means one very important event, the search for the perfect bag is once again resumed.
The perfect bag is something like a purse, but it’s more than that. It’s my personal emergency preparedness plan. It contains the chronicle of my recent social life, and as well as miscellaneous tax records. It contains amusements as well as communications. It’s part of my identity.
My bags have changed over the years. I remember the college back pack days. The big middle section was for books and papers, but the front contained school ID’s, spare change, chap stick and Kleenex. It went with me everywhere and I loved the side compartments where I stuff in a can of soda or a water bottle.
Later. I survived the diaper bag years. I used to complain about the style of diaper bags a lot. I never understood why the bag I carried with me should be covered with cute little elephants or cartoon characters. Besides the diapers, wipes, bottles and changing pad, the diaper bag was also where I kept my wallet. my make up and my sunglasses. But I never complained about the size and the number of compartments. I have always loved compartmentalizing my bags.
When I finally hung up the last diaper bag, I wasn’t ready for a brief case, but I was well past a back pack. I entered into the era of the big purse and I’m still stuck there today.
The size of the purse is key. Although my family may not believe me, I consider some purses just too big. You want one that will hold everything without causing permanent damage to your shoulder or back.
Everything includes shopping lists and coupons, allergy meds and tissues, make up, eye drops, glasses for reading, sunglasses, bifocals for when I really can’t stand my contact lens anymore and a contact lens case,
My husband has never understood why I carry so much stuff around, but then he asks me if I have an Ibuprofen.
The kids have spent years making fun of my big purse, but then they want to borrow my nail file.
I’ve spent my adult life looking for the perfect purse. I want one as lightweight as possible (the stuff in it is heavy enough). It should be washable because it’s only a matter of time until I put it down in the mud or in a spilled drink.
I do like compartments. It’s makes me feel organized to keep the doctor appointment cards and buy-five-get-one free offers in a zippered compartment away from my business cards and work ID.
I like having an outside compartment for my cell phone. It’s so embarrassing to have to dump out a purse full of old receipts and empty gum wrappers to answer a ringing cell phone.
My cell phone has replaced my address book in recent years, and that frees up enough space for my Kindle. You never know when you’ll be stuck in a waiting room and need something to read. My perfect purse would have an easily assessable Kindle-sized pocket with just a little light padding to keep my electronics safe.
And to be really perfect, my bag would need an insulated compartment large enough to fit a diet coke can or – when I’m feeling healthy – a plastic water bottle.
I’ve been searching for my bag for a long time now. Each time the season changes, I renew my quest in the local department stores. Each season my optimism returns and I know that I will find the bag that defines me, my station in life and my possibilities for the future. And fits all my stuff.

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One of the most important rites of spring is the first bike ride of the year.  On Saturday I  attached  the older sister’s former bike rack to the back of my car and I headed off to my favorite trail head.

There are a lot of things I love about living near the lake, but riding bikes isn’t one of them.  The streets in our little subdivision are way too steep for me and I firmly believe you would have to be suicidal to go out on the two lane highway on a bike.  So bike rides always begin with a car trip.  Luckily for me, Rogers is in the process of building a really great set of bike trails.

Back in the day I would have scoffed at bike trails.  I prided myself on riding in traffic. I remember telling people, it was really just a mind game.  You had to pretend to be a car and just go for it. Luckily my young self never spoke to my children.  By the time I was telling them about bike riding I was very much over pretending to be a car.

But I remember what it was like.  My love affair with bicycles started long ago and hasn’t ended yet. 

I bought the blue Schwinn “racing” bike at the Schwinn store in East Providence when I was in college.  I was actually replacing another fairly new Schwinn that was a little heavier and didn’t have the racing handlebars. I couldn’t really afford to trade in that fairly new bike, but I wanted a racing bike badly so I managed to talk my mother into buying the older one and paying too much.  She was easy that way when she knew I really wanted something. 

I loved the racer!  And I loved riding it around Providence.  When my car blew up, I rode the bike exclusively even to the self-service gas station where I worked. Between me and the gas station was a hill of Arkansas proportions.  I could never make it up that hill, but I kept trying.  I’d end up pushing my racing bike up the last few yards, panting and sweating and there was always an old woman working in her yard at the top of the hill and every day she’d call to me, “You’re going to give yourself a heart attack.”  I was only 20 years old and in decent shape.  I didn’t really understand her concern.

The best ride was going downtown.  They’ve changed the roads around Providence since then and I suspect the rotary is long gone, but back then I had to use the rotary at the bottom of the big hill next to the Rhode Island state house.  Rotaries are traffic circles, of course.  There’s usually a couple of lanes of traffic, headed in the same direction around the circle, the problem is that in order to stay in the rotary and not go shooting out one of the exits you had to move across at least one lane of fast-moving traffic.  I would use the momentum from the big hill to get up to speed and go flying into the rotary just as if I was driving an actual car.  If I saw one of my kids doing what I used to do, I’d kill them.  But somehow it worked both me and my blue Schwinn racing bike survived. 

My next stop on my biking adventure was the Kentucky years when I learned exactly how narrow a two lane road can be if you’re riding a bike and an oversized load comes up beside you.  I also had to dodge cows on occasion, but I kept trying to ride my bike.  After we were married, I tried hard to convert my husband.  I even bought him a bike of his own, but I couldn’t afford a second Schwinn and the inexpensive bike I found seemed to self destruct each time he rode it.

When the kids were little, I found a second blue Schwinn racing bike at a garage sale and we added baby seats. 

My bike had a baby seat for years because our youngest child refused to give it up.  I remember when she was in kindergarten and all her friends were giving up their training wheels, she was still in the seat behind me.  It lasted until she got so heavy,t he seat started sinking down onto the tire and then we took it off.  By then we were living here by the lake.

The youngest still doesn’t like bike riding, but the older two have taken up where I left off.  Some day we’ll do a long ride together – maybe the Katy trail in Missouri.  I have to work on my endurance and I have to get over the mental image of an overweight, middle-aged woman on slim blue racing bike. 

My rite of spring ride was only a few miles long and it left me pretty sore, but I’ll keep trying and one of these days, we’ll do that trail.

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Turning my home videos into DVD’s has been a big project. As usual, I find myself wishing for a better technology background. Of course, back when I was in school picking up background, we didn’t even have VHS. Home movies were on film that was projected reel to reel. And computers were mammoth things in school offices, not something you’d be able to play with at home. But this isn’t a blog about my age or technology. I wanted to write about the home movies.
I had a few surprises when I started really watching those tapes I made about 20 years ago. It’s funny the things you forget.
I totally remembered that my kids were very cute toddlers, but I had forgotten the dimples that made the middle child’s smile so infectious. Even now, twenty years later, I find myself smiling back at him every time he turns towards the camera. Of course he was smiling every time he turned towards the camera. That’s just the kind of kid he was.
His older sister was always firmly in control of everything except her own hair. She ordered her brother to do her bidding as her blond curls bounced around her face. When she was little, we kept her hair short and let it wave and curl on its own. But during the middle school years, when she insisted on growing her hair long like all her friends, it got a little out of control. But she wouldn’t listen to my advice to cut it.
When I saw the first few shots of our youngest daughter, I was amazed that she was the only one of the three who had hair as an infant. And her hair wasn’t anywhere near as blond as it is now. Isn’t that strange? She looks more like her sister now than she did back then.
But I think I was most surprised at myself. Was I really that skinny in between baby two and baby three? I sure wasn’t after baby three! And I was pretty confident as I interacted with the kids and their friends. Maybe my mother was right. I should have been a preschool teacher!
My mother and mother-in-law where frequent guest stars in our home videos which were mostly shot at family events. When you see them there with the kids, it’s impossible to believe that they’re both gone.
There are several birthdays on those old tapes and so far I’ve run across two long sequences of piñata bashing. I mean really long sequences. You would think I would’ve learned from the first time – when it took so long to break the homemade piñata. On that tape you can hear one of the mothers pleading with her son to hit it harder because they really have to leave. I started my young party guests out with plastic hammers and no blindfolds, but as they continued to bash without results, I passed out wooden spoons. I know I must have considered using a baseball bat at some point, but they were doing more damage to each other than to the piñata so I held back.
Then a few years later the same thing happened at completely different birthday party. Again, you can hear the parents begging their children to hit it harder. Everyone was ready to go home.
I’m glad I videoed the destruction of my living room after hosting a “Cabbage Patch Party” for eight kindergarteners. I remember almost panicking when the last mother dropped off the last of the six year olds and didn’t stay to help. Why did I think I could wrangle eight little girls, a four year old boy, and their Cabbage Patch babies without assistance? I’m pretty sure we all survived and eventually I must have put my living room back together or else we just moved. I’m not sure…
If I had it to do all over again, I’d shoot a lot more video of everyday things. We have one sequence on the front lawn of the house in Heber Springs. I know I shot it because we were getting ready to move and I’m glad to have those images because we loved that house. I’m just sorry I didn’t video tape our first boat which was also left behind in that move. Of course, in those days we didn’t own a video camera.
For years we used a camera borrowed from his work to shoot those Christmases, birthdays and the new baby. For the dance recitals, we simply copied other people’s videos. Even twenty years later, it’s easy to identify the child whose parents let us copy their tape. She’s the one in the center of the frame, waving to the camera. Our little dancer is somewhere in back and you have to watch carefully to glimpse her. But I’m happy to have even the glimpse, because our oldest child in the little red tutu was the cutest dancer ever to grace the stage in Heber Springs Elementary School!

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I’ve always loved family road trips even though I know that some people would call me crazy. It took me some time, and several newspaper columns, to figure out what it is I like about road trips, but I’m pretty sure it’s having the family really close to me and unable to escape.
When the kids were little we drove to California several times. I used to spend weeks preparing for those trips, deciding exactly what games, toys and food would keep three kids relatively happy while strapped into the car for days at a time. The year the youngest was born, we drove to California to see Grandma and I spent so long packing, repacking and reorganizing the mini-van that I killed the car battery while it sat in the garage. The morning of the big trip, we got everyone up and dressed early, added ice to the cooler, stuffed in favorite pillows and blankies, fastened seat belts, locked the house up and turned the key which clicked ineffectively.

We stopped pretty often back in 92

That was the same infamous trip when my mother got the speeding ticket. I had sent the husband back to work early and had Grandma drive back with me. On the second day I made her drive through the desert while I climbed into the back seat to nurse the baby. Although I totally believed in car seats and always obey all traffic laws, we were exhausted and out in the middle of nowhere. There was no way I was going to add a half hour to our driving day. Unfortunately, Grandma couldn’t quite figure out the cruise control on the minivan and in an effort to set it at a reasonable speed, she did a little bit of accidental speeding and naturally, we were pulled over.
As the police officer walked up to the window of the mini-van, I was frantically stuffing a hungry, screaming baby back into her car seat with one hand, buttoning my shirt with the other and yelling at the older kids to stop making faces at the cop in the back window. My mother was flustered too. She was so flustered that she explained to the officer that she was trying to set the cruise control for ten mph over the speed limit and that’s why she ended up going 20 miles over. She insisted on paying her own ticket.
Grandma was along when I drove the kids to Rhode Island a few years later, but I drove across country alone the year we moved to Arkansas. Well, I wasn’t alone, but I was the only driver that trip. I had all three kids along as passengers. That was the trip when we discovered the full extent of the oldest child’s car sickness. She threw up across seven states. I stumbled on the video recently. The middle child, who was 12 that summer, was filming a stunning landscape somewhere in the Colorado mountains. When he panned around to get the family we saw a stressed out mother leaning against the front of the van staring blankly ahead and a hyperactive little sister jumping up and down dangerously close to the cliff, but all that showed was the top of the older sister’s head as she slumped in the way back seat of the mini-van. I don’t think she noticed the view.
So recently we took the latest family road trip. I’m grateful that my kids like each other enough to want to do it. There were only four of us in the car that left Arkansas on Saturday morning because we were meeting the oldest for a slightly late celebration of her 26th birthday. We met at the zoo in Kansas City.
That wasn’t really the best idea. I packed a nice lunch and we found a nice pavilion and eventually the oldest daughter found us for the happy reunion. The problem was that it was cold and rainy in Kansas City that weekend. It was cold enough that everyone was fighting over the extra sweat shirt I had packed for myself in spite of its unfashionable mom-ness. By the time we finished lunch and headed to the ticket booths, it was not only cold, it was getting late and we opted to skip the zoo in favor of a late afternoon matinee in a heated theater.
But the experience of driving four hours in a smallish car with a cooler full of “car food” and drinks hasn’t really changed very much. There was the usual teasing and passing of food. The college daughter was playing the same Gameboy she’s been playing for a decade. If only the oldest had been wedged in between her siblings, threatening to throw up and arguing over who was taking up too much of the seat, it would have been just like old times. I savored the whole experience.

All grown up

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My office has gone to the dogs.  Actually, it’s not a new thing but lately it’s been an annoying thing.  My allergies have taken a unique turn this past month. Instead of sneezing or wheezing, I’ve been rubbing my eyes constantly. Makes it almost impossible to wear my contacts.  I haven’t been to the doctor, not even an eye doctor, because I’m pretty sure I know what’s causing it and I’m pretty sure there’s no cure.

It’s the dogs, of course and they’re kinda here to stay. I do try. Some “dog people” don’t understand why I bother with the house rule of no dogs on the furniture but that’s my attempt to solve the allergy thing.  I like to think that keeping them off the furniture gives me a little buffer that helps screen out the allergens.  Of course, it doesn’t work.

Part of the reason it doesn’t work is my “office.”  When I sit in my home office (formerly the youngest daughter’s bedroom, but she moved to the basement the day her older brother moved out), I sit about a foot from the only furniture the dogs have permission to use.  Her former bed now belongs to the two dogs who share it only when they can pretend the other one isn’t there.  It doesn’t make any sense for me to have the dogs so close and I know it.  They should be in HIS office, the other home office that my husband has always used. He’s not allergic and he has single handedly spoiled two perfectly good dogs.

Back when we had three kids living in their own bedrooms, we had a futon in his office for the dogs.  The futon was the closest thing we had to a guest room back then which is probably why we didn’t have many guests.  When company threatened to arrive, I’d have to push dogs off and bring in a heavy duty vacuum cleaner.  I’m sure any company that slept there dreamed about chasing rabbits.  It was so obvious that it was the dogs’ bed. When the grandmothers used to visit, we put them in the youngest daughter’s room and she slept on the floor. 

But one by one the older kids moved out of the house and youngest took over the basement.  The little dog was happy to move with her to that basement bedroom where they both ignored the “no dogs on the furniture rule.”  Then the youngest daughter went to college and the little dog was ours again.

Our dogs don’t really like each other very much, although over the years they’ve reached a kind of truce.  The problem is that they both want to be the alpha dog, but the little one was forced to give up when she realized she was a third of the size of the her “sister.”  And my husband plays favorites.  He doesn’t even pretend to treat them fairly.  The big dog is his and the little dog – the one we used to call “that stupid puppy” when our then preteen son brought him home – is not.

Did I mention that both our dogs are old?  Really poor planning on our part.  We now have two 12 year old dogs and I’m afraid that means a double tragedy is coming our way before too long.

So the little dog moved back upstairs and I resurrected the little dog bed that we had bought her years ago and put it in our room.  The little dog bed wasn’t the little dog’s first choice.  We had the big dog bed, a big square cushion at the foot of the bed and then the little oval bed up by the book case on my side and everyone was O.K. with that until we had to move the little oval bed.  The other home office was being painted, so we moved his computer into the bedroom for a few days and I put the two dog beds next to each other at the foot of the bed. 

One day I went into the bedroom and found the little oval dog bed, with the little dog in it, right in the middle of the big cushion.  She looked pretty comfortable and maybe a little bit proud of herself.  I didn’t think too much about it, but when we were getting ready for bed I moved it back and I asked my husband why he had moved the little bed onto the big dog bed. He swore he hadn’t.  The next day, there it was again.  I always knew the little dog was smarter than the big dog!

I left the little oval bed where it was and later that day I found the big dog trying to sleep in it.  She managed to get her rear end kind of curled into the little bed, but the rest of her was lying across it on the big cushion.  It actually looked very uncomfortable, but she was happy because she won.  The little dog was stretched out on the real bed in my office, of course.

The dogs don’t respect the furniture rule.  We keep a dining room chair lying across the couch or they’re up there.  When company comes into the living room they often comment on the chair and that’s the only reason we remember to move it.  We’re used to it being there.  If one of us sits on the couch, we just push the chair over a little bit.

They usually stay off our bed because it’s a water bed.  We bought it back in the 80’s and never got around to replacing it.  The dogs don’t seem to like the swishing, but once or twice I’ve surprised a guilty looking dog standing next to a bed with waves almost large enough to surf on. 

The big dog likes to rub her face on her master’s pillows, which I think is a little weird. It’s also annoying since she un-makes the bed to free up a pillow for rubbing.  I never use his pillows.

The dogs spend most of their time in the house.  They are 12 years old after all, and the big dog barks constantly when she’s outside.  I’ll never figure out what she’s barking at, but I suspect she knows exactly how much it annoys me. 

I wish I could report that the dogs have replaced the kids in some small ways, but they haven’t. In spite of two noisy and jealous animals who like to move their beds around, I miss the kids.  It’s no fun to yell at the dogs when they simply yawn and go back to sleep. 

Dogs ignoring each other

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