Our report card said “F-“

Last year, I started doing a project in my classes where the students were able to spend about 20% of our time learning about whatever they wanted and designing their own projects.  I did the project along with them and made a quilt.  It was great! (The project was great. My quilt was sad-looking but I was still proud of it.)

This year, my project was Percy. I thought I might work on training him so that maybe, someday, he would be a therapy dog and help out my kids. I know it will be a few years but he needs to be trained. This will be great! It will be awesome! I can be efficient and train my boy at the same time I am showing my students that we should always learn! (In September, I still think in exclamation points. In February, I think in tears.)

The first trainer I talked to seemed a little hesitant to work with a then-intact lab puppy. She agreed to show up at our house and help us train my well-meaning sweetheart. She never showed up. She never called. Things then got a little hectic as the holiday season advanced so I put off finding a replacement.

As the project was progressing and I needed to move forward, I looked into a training center in another town (because apparently you have to belong to a secret society to find a trainer in my town). It was a bit more expensive but they claim that I should be able to get Percy through six levels of training in 6 months. Percy should then be awesome at obedience. Sounds good. I can do this. Percy can do this. We can do this, together!

Saturday morning, we are ready to go. I got Percy leashed up, we stopped for treats because I forgot to bring them in my excitement, and it was finally time. We had this.

When I got there, the trainer told me that Percy didn’t have the right collar for training so she lent me one. Oops. Oh, well.  We will listen and be model students. We aren’t going to be that kid. We find an empty spot on the floor and the trainer goes over different types of collars and talks about the different levels and that it is fine that there are brand new people today.

It was time to make the dogs sit on our left and then walk around cones.  I take a step and Percy takes off, dragging me behind him, even with the different collar.  We get maybe halfway around the room and the trainer stops everyone. We have to drop down to something more basic.  I don’t know that it was our fault, but Percy was the only one who kept dragging a grown woman 5 feet in every direction away from where he was supposed be sitting.

Then, it happened.  In the midst of a class of a dozen dogs and handlers, Percy decides that this is the perfect place to drop a few pounds. I was mortified and didn’t have a bag. The whole class has to stop again as we find a bag and a mop.

Class resumes and we make it 1/4 of the way around the room and the whole class has to stop again. Percy had decided to force me to meet every dog waiting for the next level class. The entire group is told about additional, private, lessons that are offered in case things weren’t explained so that people could understand them. Was that aimed at me? Probably.

Homework for this week is to hand feed the dog right next to us (gross) to help teach the dog to heel and work on sit and down. I don’t think we are supposed to work on walking on the leash but it was hard to hear over the sound of all of the blood rushing to my cheeks.

Looks like we are going to summer school.

You’re in my spot.

Some of my classes don’t have a seating chart and some of my classes are assigned to a table. No one has a required “spot” but everyone sits in the exact same place every day. If someone takes their spot, woe unto the intruder.

It’s the same way at my house.  Mom has a spot. Dad has a spot. Oldest child had a spot until the dogs came. Now the boys are in a power struggle to claim their own “spots” in the living room.

Percy wants to sit next to me, always, so his spot is the middle of the couch. Drake and Haas like to try to sneak in when Percy isn’t looking and they generally get about 3 minutes before Admiral Jealousy finds a way to move the competition. Sometimes it is with the theft of a favorite toy, sometimes it is wedging a shoulder in and pushing, sometimes it is causing enough trouble that all of them get kicked outside. With any of those methods, no one else is in his spot.

Haas taking advantage of Percy’s inattention and getting snuggles with Mom. Percy stopped this one by sitting on Haas.

The new boys are still in a “spot” struggle. They are vying for Oldest Child’s place on the big couch. Oldest child doesn’t deign participate and often resides in teen cave so it isn’t a three way competition.

The struggle was real this weekend when Drake took 2 full minutes to circle and find the perfect relaxation position in Oldest Child’s spot. He was stretches out and happy looking. After just a short time, there is a bit of a cry and I see that giant Haas (who has a good 40 or 50 pounds on Drake) is flopped down on top of Drake while Drake squirms and fights for air and freedom. Fortunately, my littlest boy is more agile and was able to quickly get free. I don’t think this was the end of the war, though.  My little shark may get his spot, yet.

The kid/dog couch has enough room for all three of those monsters.

We all have bad days.

I have good boys. They are really good boys when I am holding some sort of food. They sit quietly and make eye contact. I am pretty sure they are also trying to communicate their “goodboyness” telepathically much like I try to telepathically get my husband to bring me ice cream on a Saturday night. (He isn’t a good boy and seldom brings me ice cream, but, whatever.)

I have had such good boys that I had even thought that it was time to maybe test letting them stay out of their crates when people were sleeping or at work. After the last few days, I still love them but they won’t be allowed free rein any time soon.

Maybe it’s the weather, but several bad habits have resurfaced in the last few days. Three pieces of mail have been shredded, a kitchen towel (how in the world did they get a kitchen towel when they aren’t allowed in the kitchen??) has been ripped to tiny pieces, and they absconded with Dad’s yicky, dirty socks.

Today was a stormy mess and so they weren’t able to get rid of some of their extra energy. Maybe, just maybe, they aren’t incorrigible and the storm is why they have gotten grounded for life today. Before Dad went to work, they had the opportunity to stay out of the crate for 10 whole minutes before Mom and younger humans came home. That didn’t happen. Instead, the terrible trio stole one of my shoes and ran outside. This caused Dad to have to go outside and be the angry participant in a game of keep away. (Here, I have to be honest and admit that I would have liked to have seen that and had a bit of a giggle.) Because of this, they lost 20 minutes of freedom and had to go to bed.  Bummer.

We’re sorry, Mom! Let us in the kitchen and we won’t eat anything we aren’t supposed to eat!

And then Percy regressed. I don’t know it was Percy, to be fair, but based on the offense, it’s pretty likely.  Frustrated youngest child came in with two dollars, or rather one full dollar and pieces of another dollar that had been retrieved from Haas’s droolly face. Oldest child wasn’t missing money. Youngest child stashes the money in a secret hiding place. Where did the money come from? Very mysterious. Also, as a teacher, I could use a mysterious source of money. I could buy so many pencils and books, and… oh wait, youngest kid pulls another dollar from a slobbery dog face.

“That’s three dollars! Where did they get three dollars?” kid asks.

Then, I remember. I had three dollars floating loose in my purse. I never have money, and apparently, I still don’t. Those stinkers went through my purse! Ugh.  These boys.

Breathe. Be kind. Repeat.

Teenagers are frustrating, whether canine or human. Neither want to listen and both require more patience than I have today.

Here is Drake, ready for a nap. It is hard to remember they are still technically puppies until I see this face.

The lack of patience is my own failing. I knew what I was getting into both with the profession as well as the dogs. Neither group is “bad” and both act according to their natures. Not being naturally patient, or kind, I have to struggle sometimes with my nature to be who I need to be for both groups.

Weighing on my mind today is a piece of advice one of my favorite high school teachers gave me when I was student teaching. She told me that it was better to be kind than to be right. I really (like obnoxiously so) like to be right. I need to be kind.

My frequently misbehaving furry friends need kindness. They need me to forgive them them for trying to eat the half filled out scoring guide I was using to grade an essay. They need me to gently repeat, over and over and over, the lesson that humans don’t play by biting and nipping. They need kindness in redirecting their long-contained energy away from rowdy play on the couch. It is a kindness to teach them boundaries and proper behaviors and to do this in the most compassionate way possible. They also need me to remember that they are puppies, even if they are in big bodies.

They know they aren’t supposed to play on the couch. It is strictly for napping and nice boy time. Here, Percy is determined to get Haas in trouble.

Several years ago, I started looking at other teachers in a different way. Before, I watched for teaching techniques, content delivery methods, and behavior management “best practices”. Those things are certainly important, but maybe that wasn’t where I should have focused. I thought that there must be a “right” way to do everything in the classroom and that this would be best for my kids. Then, I started  looking at the teachers the kids loved and were willing to work for. Some kids will learn, behave, and succeed no matter what or who is teaching. Some need structure and routine and for the teacher and classroom to be predictable. Some need variety and constant stimulation. They need me to remember that they are still kids, even if they are in grown-up sized bodies. All of them need kindness.

I decided, then, that if someone were to describe me, the words I would want them to use (and didn’t) was that their teacher was kind, calm, and capable. I want my kids to feel peace and safety. I know that life isn’t peaceful, safe, or often kind. But. (Isn’t there always a but?) I can be kind, as much as possible.

I’m not there, yet. It is likely that I will never get there, but I will keep trying. I still get frustrated when kids argue or refuse to use time and resources given to them. I get loud when a 90 pound dog uses me as a trampoline or smacks me upside the head while trying to play. Then, I have to remind myself to be kind.

Today the phrase is written in large, clear lettering on an index card on my desk. (I am struggling to be kind and not insistent on “right”)

So, in the interest of accountability, today, tonight, and tomorrow, I will be kind in the following ways.

I will be kind to my students by remembering that Caesar can be hard and giving them some down time, even if it is just a few minutes.

I will be kind to my boys by taking one for a walk and giving the other two a special treat. They all get extra play time.

I will be kind to my department and bring muffins for breakfast tomorrow.

I will be kind to myself and remember that although I wasn’t always who I wanted to be today, no one is perfect and I can try again tomorrow to be calm, capable, and kind.

Floating on Four Fins

The youngest offspring has a few things to say this evening…I was supposed to include all of the parentheticals and keep it as close to what she wrote as possible.

Hi! I’m the daughter of the owner of this blog. I love her blog [Ed./mom note: I’m just typing what the kid wrote]. Anyways, this is a special page! Today I’m talking about what I think the fan favourite [Kid watches too much Doctor Who, apparently]fish do when we’re at school. My fish, Sky (the pretty boy), most likely sleeps a lot. When he’s awake, I think he patrols his territory. Since he’s managed to cut his fins up a little, I think he might play by himself.

Now Poltergeist (not my fish), I think he tries to break the tank. Poltergeist is ragged. He likes to slam himself into the wall.

Yeah…Anyways, on the wonderful, stress-free snow day Monday, Sky slept. A lot. When he was awake he just stared me down. I told him sleeping near the filter was a bad idea. Sorry, mom. I didn’t know children were that rebellious [mom note: kid is 11, so she has no idea]. Let’s just say he slept by the filter. That covers Sky.

Now, I don’t own Poltergeist, so I’m not sure about him. I think he (Poltergeist) sleeps, too. After probably hurting himself, he is calmed down as far as I’ve seen. Maybe he sleeps, maybe he parties. Poltergeist is, well, interesting. He is, or was, a good boy. I think. He has grown up a bit and he’s been in the house longer than Percy. I think other pages or the description says otherwise, but we got Poltergeist a week before Percy. Poltergeist is purple with red and blue. Sky is light blue. Both are torn up. Sky isn’t as torn up. I’ve accidentally fallen into the dresser (where his tank sits) and literally shaken Sky up. He fish glares at me. Poltergeist though. He’s, according to his owner, “very aggressive.” I think that’s all. Betta fish are the best fish. Goodbye!

(Don’t) Let them eat cake.

I am not sure which is more frustrating, teenagers who are required to read The Tragedy of Julius Caesar in February or a group of stinky, over-sized dogs. Both of them are driving me to my favorite, wonderful, most excellent, slightly-scary-but-beautifully-decorated-hair stylist for excessive amounts of hair dye to cover the grey. (I go see her in a few weeks, so Hi, Sis! See, I appreciate you lots!) Currently, it is a toss up as to which group I would want to spend the rest of my week hanging around.


On Monday, we had a snow day. It was perfectly timed. Percy went in for the big snip so the new boys and I had a lazy morning. Then, because it was Monday and I have a standing dinner date with my grandfather, I was able to get a little work done and bake a spice cake. The house smelled amazing and looked pretty good for having two kids, three dogs, a cat, and a husband. It was a good day…until I went to get Percy.

For once, Percy didn’t immediately forgive me for taking him to the vet. A month or so ago, this guy forgave me immediately every time I held him down and put multiple cream medications in his eye for what looked like pink eye when it happens in my students.  Apparently, this trip was less than pleasant and required some time apart.  He went off with Haas and left me to start dinner.

When I came back into the kitchen after an absence of about 6 heartbeats, the Teenager was chasing the big boys out of the spice cake 15 minutes before my grandfather was set to arrive.  P-awsome.  (The big boys are still alive.)

Spiced sadness

Teenager saved the day with chocolate mint cookies and life was good. Life was really good until Percy ate a cookie. That required some unpleasant clean-up the next morning but Dad helped with that one. Since I am not 15, I’ll spare you the description, but, ew.

Tuesday, I had the joy of starting my least favorite Shakespearean tragedy with teenagers who are done. They were much more interested in getting out of school early than investigating the political intrigues of ancient Rome.  I couldn’t blame them.  An hour early is still an early out with the possibility of a snow day the next day, too.

We didn’t get a snow day. There was much sadness. Looks like a full rest of the week filled with

“I don’t get it!”

“What page are we on?”

“Can I go to the bathroom?”

“Do you have any toys you don’t immediately shred and make a mess all over the living room floor? I just vacuumed!”

“Don’t eat that!” (To be fair, this one I say to both my dogs and my students)

So, M-, I’m gonna need the industrial hair color and maybe an extra hour in the chair. I’ll bring extra tea. Love you!