Getting Personal…sort of

Monday’s notebook prompt for my students was “What can you do this week to improve your life?” I think about things like this occasionally. Sometimes I even act upon them. Will the kids? Who knows. I’ve started the week with good intentions but we know how those can turn out.

Honestly, Monday has been a struggle. I don’t know why. There is no reason. My students are great, my coworkers are great, my dogs have gone several days without eating concrete, and I got to have dinner with my grandfather for the first time in forever. Unfortunately for me, the itchy-fights showed up and tried to take over the day.

The itchy-fights isn’t a technical term. It’s just the best way I can describe the onset of anxiety. Sometimes that feeling has a trigger and sometimes they just come on in spite of all of the blessings around me. My skin feels itchy on the inside like it doesn’t fit and is made of cheap sweater and insulation. The fights come when I combat all of the physical stimuli and people. I love my kids and do everything in my power to not let them know I am struggling. They deserve a professional in the classroom. They are also good for keeping me from turning into a crazy dog lady hermit. However, 127 of them each day can make the itchies worse.

I have to fight the urge to run away and hide in my book closet and concentrate on meeting my kids’ needs. There are strategies I use when it gets bad and here is where my terrible trio earn their kibble. I rely on their love to get me through.

My sweet boy has been surprisingly patient through this. He has brought me toys but hasn’t been insistent on playing fetch or catch. In fact, this bull in a china shop has gently hovered at my side. I get little snuggles and he checks in but no headbutts or forcing his 85 pounds into my lap. Percy the Pain is Percy the Precious tonight.

The other boys are behaving nicely. I am thankful for them and fortunately, the itchy-fights are starting to subside enough that I can think again. Writing helps, as well, which is why I have taken a break from the four legs’ weekly misadventures. I hope you’ll indulge my wandering and come back next week for more fun and probably destruction in the future as we play more “What is in your mouth now?!”

Now I can think about what I can do this week to make my life better. I’m going to continue watching The Great British Baking Show and appreciating how nice the people are. I love how they help each other and are so supportive. I am going to take time to watch something positive like this every day this week. I try to help people have a better week every day and this week I am going to include myself.

The boys and I wish you an excellent week and help you do something kind for yourself. If you get your own version of the itchy-fights, remember to do what you need to do to be good to yourself. We believe in you!

(I will ) Stand My Ground.

It’s been an educational few days. Between Percy’s class Saturday and Professional Development at school (read: teaching the teachers), my brain has had a lot of things to practice and process. It used to bug me when I needed time to think but one of the benefits of not being young is that now I just take the time to let the crud ferment in my brain. It’s too bad I didn’t have that attitude when I was younger. I think it comes down to two things: I don’t care and I am stubborn.

This isn’t nearly as negative as it sounds. I spend all day, every day, with teenagers (those who claim they don’t care what anyone thinks but actually do). I get it. Being a teenager stinks. It stinks like teenage boys’ sweat socks after outside PE in August. If you don’t know what that smells like, its almost as bad as dog, erm, flatulence. So, I’m glad I’m snuggling up to 40. It’s so much easier to learn when I am not just pretending not to care about what other people think and just don’t care.

Even if this is way rambly and gets preachy, I do have a feel-good type point. I couldn’t have trained Percy 10 years ago. I couldn’t have done it 5 years ago because I did care about looking stupid or inept. I would have given up on the first day when Percy pooped in class (mortifying). If that hadn’t done it, maybe I would have given up when we failed the test to get out of level 2 multiple times or when he was “that kid” in class.

A few weeks ago, the trainer was trying not to call out individuals for what they were doing wrong. I was actually bordering on frustrated before I caught why I was feeling that way. I didn’t care if anyone else knew what I was doing wrong. This was a massive growth for me. I just wanted to know how to fix what I needed to fix. I have been tempted to give up, especially when I had to accept that Percy and I wouldn’t graduate from our obedience class. I didn’t quit for two reasons. One is Percy. He deserves my all. The second is that I am just a trifle stubborn (You ok, Husband and Mom? I hope you didn’t choke too much on that statement.) I am okay with us failing but I won’t give up or give in.

I had this realization as we got to do our first off-leash work this week. Up until now, the trainer and I haven’t felt comfortable letting Percy loose with other dogs and people around. I put Percy in a sit and walked maybe 15 or 20 feet away. He stayed! Miracle! When I called him, though, was a tad frightening. Imagine 85 pounds of overly-enthusiastic muscle and teeth charging at you like a freight train. In a perfect world, he would slow down and sit directly in front of me. This isn’t a perfect world. Instead of sitting, my boy decided to launch himself through the air and collide with me at full speed. Fortunately, I am stout so I didn’t end up on my rear and was able to stand my ground. All in all, he didn’t do too badly for his first time off-leash.

Now my obstinance is going to show through with my school kids. My kids are amazing but now it is time to be persistent. They are a delight but there are too many holes in my grade book. If I can stick with Percy, I can stick with my kids. Time to crank the Tom Petty and make “I Won’t Back Down” this year’s theme song. I don’t care if they think I am the crazy teacher who dances in the halls, I am not giving up. Happy Monday!

Don’t tell mom we play catch inside.

School is starting to overtake us. Every year I forgot how tired I am for the first few months. The first weeks are great but by now the exhaustion is getting to me. I am slacking on Percy’s training and many of my other responsibilities. I’d feel bad about it but that takes too much energy.

I refuse to feel guilty about not doing it all, anymore. Well, not too guilty, anyway. Right now I am giving all I have, all the spoons, the entire bucket, and any other metaphor that shows I am tapped out. That’s okay though. It’s sort-of, kind-of, how I do my job. Now its time for the boys to do theirs. It would also be great if the human family members would work on theirs. It’ll be good, though. My humans know the drill. They are experienced at being in a teaching family. They might be a little rusty in the fall, but they’ll get it. They don’t like scary-mom. The boys might have a bit of difficulty, though. This is their first time dealing with start-of-school mom.

Yesterday marked one year of having Percy. It seems like forever but also like yesterday that this Pain in the Patootie graced us with his presence. Of course, last year he had my old man dog to keep him in line. The other boys have been here about eight months. Whoa. Time for them to pull their rather generous weight. Here’s what they need to do:

  • stop eating things they aren’t supposed to
  • remember that there are no bones allowed on the couch
  • learn the difference between “I-need-a-snuggle annoyed” and “Just-leave-me-alone annoyed”
  • Play catch regularly
  • clean the kitchen floor
  • learn to trim their own nails

But really — their main job is to show us love. For the most part, they excel at this job. The boys probably deserve a bonus. They are still ecstatic when we get home. I keep expecting Drake to lift off with his tail moving so fast. He definitely is getting a workout. Today, Haas was so excited to see me he couldn’t stop on the tile and slid 3 feet on his belly like the old cartoon of Bambi on ice.  Maybe I should be nice and order them a new toy, even if it only lasts 5 minutes.

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Mom…mom…mom….throw the ball

Maybe I am too tired to work with Percy on obedience tasks as much as I should but he seems awfully happy playing catch with a ball as I catch up on late work, notebooks, essays, and other assignments. He doesn’t care that it is sometimes 3 or 4 minutes between throws. I think he just believes I am playing hard to get.  The other boys get a trifle jealous but we make up for that with extra Haas snuggles on the couch and allowing Drake to slap Oldest Child whenever he wants.  He also gets to supervise the weekly blog post, so I don’t think he is hurting for attention. Drake might disagree but he is currently the biggest troublemaker. Just wait, Drake.  Mom will have more energy and time in a couple of months and your obedience training will go double time. Get ready to work!

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This is what happens when I try to work at home. Haas wants to snuggle in my lap, Percy wants to play catch, and Drake plots destruction.

All the feels

I am amazed at how much love can live inside my heart. It almost feels like rainbows and glitter are going to ooze out of my ears with ponies and baby seals singing in the background. It’s early enough in the year that my students are still angel babies and since we focused today on how valuable we are as individuals in addition to getting to celebrate my grandfather’s 81st birthday with him, I am almost grossing myself out with happiness and…well…love.  It makes me never want to end my sentences.

Even having to outwit the boys to give them monthly meds isn’t getting me down. Instead, it was almost funny to see who took his pill and who had to be fooled with a peanut butter and banana sandwich. The answer: Drake was a good boy about his pill, Percy came in second with only needing 1/4 of a sandwich, and Haas was tricky and needed a full half sandwich, in case anyone is keeping score.

I am giving much of the credit for my sappiness happiness goes to these boys. Dogs can be so good for our hearts and minds. Even if I am sometimes overcome with the amount of emotion I generate, it never seems as much as what our dogs feel toward us. How do they keep loving us even when we are grumpy or sad or too lazy to throw the ball one more time? How can I live up to what my dogs believe me to be? I really don’t think I can, but I will sure try.

So, today, on a Monday, I am setting a goal to be like my dogs when it comes to my kids, both take-home kids and student-kids. I am going to love them even when they are grumpy and stinky and overwhelmed with life. I am going to remember that they are valuable even when they aren’t feeling it and their actions make life tough. They won’t always remember, but like my boys think I am awesome no matter what, I will remember they are awesome — even if I have to reread today’s post to remind myself.  I know I can never live up to my dogs’ ability to love and accept but I am sure going to try.

Ugh, okay. I’m grossing myself out with this already so I’m going to cut this short and go snuggle a dog or three. If any of my students found this, I love you, kid, and you’re my favourite.  (So are you, other kid, just don’t tell the others)

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Who are you?

I ask this question of my students multiple times through the year. We look at influences to our identity from society, childhood and family, gender, religion, political power and many others. We also try to see how our identity changes. How do we see ourselves? How do other people see us?

Since my grading pile is not yet taller than Oldest Child (thank you assignments submitted electronically for enabling my denial). I started wondering how the boys and cat would describe themselves. Hmmm…..

Meri: I am the queen. You only live to serve me. Serve me food, right now.

The dogs are a little different (yes, that is a euphemism for nuttier than a squirrel hideout).

Percy: I am the greatest! I’m also mom’s favorite. I know this because Mom brought me home first and I get to ride in the car and sometimes I get treats but not enough so maybe Mom doesn’t love me best. I should go check. Where’s Mom? Mom! Do you love me, Mom? Look, Mom! Here’s my blanket. You have a rope, Mom? Throw it! Yes! 

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Percy was really hoping Mom would put down the computer and play fetch.

I don’t think Percy would be able to focus long enough to examine his own identity since he doesn’t even stop to end his sentences. Haas might be able to, though.

Haas: I’m Dad’s favorite and he left me in charge…at least when Mom says I can be in charge. Mom is stricter than Dad. It’s my job to make sure that the cat stays on her side of the house. I also protect the peoples. The only outside peoples allowed in the house are my favorite Mima (Dad’s Mom–he has one, too) and someone Mom calls Papaw (her grandpa whom she thinks is extra special). She doesn’t let me play with Papaw, so I bark a little from my crate so he knows I am keeping things safe. Mima and I walk, sometimes. We let Mom come along and hold the leash so I am legal. I wonder if Mima is here. I’ll go check. You stay right there.

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Haas was pretty sure he heard something in the front yard. That’s a scrap of Percy’s blanket and not a tongue defect.

Drake is the hardest but I think I have him.

Drake: This question is stupid. Whatever. I bet that mama’s boy, Percy, said he was Mom’s favorite. Let him think that. For now. I make sure the other two don’t get above themselves. The moment they do, I go for the back legs and take them down. If they are on the floor, Mom’s lap is empty and she’s all mine. I know what’s up.

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Drake doin his thing

Wonders never cease.

Percy shocked me this weekend. I didn’t think it was possible to shock me due to his weirdness or for him to do what he did.

We only have 4 or 5 weeks left in our 6 month obedience training package. With this package, there are six levels. Due to his rambunctious reactivity and intense prey-drive, I believe it was realistic to assume he would never make it to the off-leash levels (4, 5, 6).

But… It happened! Percy was promoted to level 4! I was rendered speechless as half the class cheered for him. To be fair, some of them may have been happy to not have to deal with this dog, but one lady (on the 3rd dog she was taking through the same group class since Percy started) diplomatically told me how she remembered when Percy first started and how much he improved. He’ll now get to join his Malinois buddies who aren’t scared to train next to my embodiment of chaos.

To celebrate this amazing surprise, Oldest Child and I took Percy for a hamburger. Normally we don’t do junk food for the boys but this was a special occasion. After both his tummy and ego were fed by those golden (arches) workers, we finally started the long drive home. I think the perpetual motion puppy had a good day.

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I’m too tired for a picture, mom. Let’s just go home.

 

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Today I started my first full week back with kids and the neediness (oh the neediness!) is going to drive me bonkers. The students are great. I have a wonderful group of students this year. I even get Oldest Child in class. It’s the boys who are worse than static cling in January.

Since I am not at their bark and call all day, I can’t seem to leave the dogs’ sight when I am home. If it isn’t Percy gnawing on a blanket while staring mournfully at me, it’s Haas hugs and snuggles on the couch. Drake tries for cuddle time with Mom but Haas just sits on Drake who then must vacate if he wants to breathe.

Mom says she has to work so I can eat but I’m not stupid. Food comes in boxes right to our door. She’s just mean.

As soon as I walk in the door, it sounds like a bison stampede. They are so wound up, I fear for my furniture. Even with repeated “No!”s and “Off!”s at full teacher volume, there’s still a better than average chance to see a dog soar through the air after launching himself from the back of the sofa.

If it isn’t furniture, then it’s a broken record of “Don’t chew on your brother!” Percy is actually the good boy lately with Drake taking over as King of Obnoxiousness. Haas currently has Drake pinned with Drake’s head firmly between Haas’s jaws. I guess he is tired of Drake’s crazy like the rest of us. It took both Percy and Haas working together to get that monster subdued. On the bright side, I am proud of them working together.

It’s all about optimism, today. My students are going to continue being wonderful, the boys are going to calm down within the next six months, and Percy will finally test into his next training level. While we are at it, Drake will keep making sure Haas gets his exercise and Haas will stop breaking into the kitchen to scare the cat. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. If I repeat it enough, it’ll be true, right? Even if it doesn’t, I have an amazing team of co-workers who will keep me sane when either kids or canines go crazy. Let’s get this year started!