Put Me In the Zoo

20140627-113226-41546941.jpgI’m friends with a lot of hippie types who love the earth and animals and kale and stuff. I love all of those things too. But something that puts me at odds with some of those folks is: I take my kid to the zoo on a weekly basis. And it’s actually become one of my favorite things to do.

I love the zoo because it’s a great place to take my toddlers and also get some social time in myself. It’s outside, so Etta in particular is happy right off the bat. There are animals all over the place for practicing our words and animal sounds. It feels free, because we bought a membership, for what I thought was a very reasonable price. There’s a really great, fairly accessible playground where I can literally just sit on a bench and my kiddos can get themselves up and down the slides, even Claire. The entire place is stroller/handicap accessible. The food prices are reasonable, and they give members a discount. There’s a train and a carousel. And, most importantly, I can meet up with a posse of other moms, and we actually get to chat and hang out as we push our caravan of strollers around the zoo.  Continue reading “Put Me In the Zoo”

In which I compare having dogs and having babies

IMG_0003We used to be smug first time parents.

Dog parents, that is.

See, when we got our first dog Bessie, we just went to a shelter one day, found a pretty cute pup who seemed playful and friendly, and took her home. There was some puppy chewing of throw pillows and Playstation controllers, but for the most part, she was a freakishly good dog– well behaved, friendly, easy to get along with. Naturally, we thought this was all our doing. We’d go to other people’s houses and encounter unruly dogs who jumped up or begged for food or used the bathroom in the house, and we’d leave thinking to ourselves, what is wrong with them? They’re clearly doing a terrible job as pet parents! We’d think, if only they were as good as we are, they wouldn’t allow that behavior.

Then we got a second dog.

Olive, it turns out, is a vastly different dog, despite our clearly superior dog parenting abilities. In the years we’ve had her, we’ve been completely unable to teach her not to put her paws on us or attempt to climb in our laps or onto the furniture, both places she isn’t allowed. We have had to come to a very shocking conclusion: it’s not that we’re amazing dog owners, we just had a really amazing first dog.

This is a realization I think more first time parents need to come to. It’s a realization we’ve come to yet again as we parent twins who, at every turn, seem determined to remind us that they are very distinct individuals. It started when Claire began sleeping through the night on her own at about 3 months old. Etta still hasn’t mastered that feat. Baby sleep in particular seems to be an area in which everyone fancies themselves an expert. Particularly if they have one kid, the baby equivalent of a Bessie dog, they’ll happily tell you that all you need to do is exactly what they did, and you too will have a baby who sleeps through the night. I hope their next baby is an Olive, every time. Because even though we use the exact same techniques and parenting styles on both of our girls, one sleeps and one doesn’t. We can’t anymore take credit for Claire’s awesome sleeping abilities than we can the blame for Etta’s lack thereof.

The same thing happened with food. Claire took happily to purees quite easily (around 6 months), while Etta has always refused to let us spoon feed her. Several months later, at 10 months, and Etta has only recently decided that while she still hates purees, she’ll willingly chow down on any food she can hold in her own fist. Truly baby-led Baby Led Weaning. I can’t take credit for how either of my girls eats, really, either– they each just do their thing, and I figure out what that thing is through trial and error.

So, you parents of one baby who think you’ve got the whole sleeping and eating figured out through your superior skills? Your kid is probably a Bessie. The next one just might be an Olive.


tinycat meets the stray

So…Tinycat still lives here. We got a new home all lined up and then, while I was all “trying to be strong and do the right thing,” Jon decided we just couldn’t part with him.

The other morning, we were doing our usual morning routine, which involves me internetting and drinking coffee while Tinycat hangs out on the back of the couch/on the windowsill. He likes to bask in the sun like so:

While he was basking, a stray cat outside (our neighborhood is full of strays and semi-strays that seem to have owners who don’t keep them inside, ever) spotted him and popped up on the window ledge to say “hi.”

And then this ensued:

I think he really wanted to go out and play! A friend wondered if they were related, but that’s probably pretty unlikely as Tinycat was found way downtown and this cat lives around here. Now if only our dogs were as calmly curious and playful as that stray cat, we’d be getting somewhere!

you don’t eat someone you’ve shared stories with

This pig looks a lot like Porky, except Porky was much fatter. Image via Flickr user sarniebill1 under a Creative Commons license.

The other day, my friend shared a link to a story about dogs who help children learn to read, just by being passive, non-judgmental, non-correcting, patient listeners. When I saw it, my first thought was, maybe my mom wasn’t so crazy after all.

You see, when I was a kid, I was made to read to a pig.

Somehow, my family wound up with an oversized supposed pot-bellied pig someone had bought as a pet, but which outgrew their expectations. The pig came to live with us because we lived outside the city, on four acres, and already had quite a menagerie, including chickens, ducks, a parrot, sometimes other birds, fish, and dogs. At other points in my childhood, we also had a tarantula named Terry, a wounded woodpecker, and a chicken who thought he was a dog (a story I’ll have to tell another time). The pig was named Porky.

At the time, my mom told me that she was worried Porky was lonely. Pigs are very intelligent creatures, and can get a little crazy when they’re not happy (much like me). So my sister and I were dispatched with books and lawn chairs, told to sit outside Porky’s pen and read him stories. Now I’m beginning to suspect it wasn’t so much for Porky’s benefit, but ours.

Personally, I think this bodes well for my future career as an English professor, because I doubt any of my students could possibly be less engaged than a pig.

Porky later displayed a tendency to escape the pen and run amok in the garden, and was eventually turned into sausage. I refused to eat him, though, on the grounds that you just don’t eat someone you’ve shared stories with. I think it’s a good policy, in general.

pet peeves

I often tell people that I have one perfect dog and one very sweet but very crazy dog.

And then yesterday, I had the following exchange on Twitter:

Still thinking about this exchange as Jon and I went to bed, I said, “My friend says that people project their own personalities and issues on their pets. But we have two very different pets! And he says that one of them is probably me, and one of them is probably you.  But which is which?”

Very quickly, Jon replied, “I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m the chilled out, obedient one.”

To which I replied, “Are you saying I’m the cracked out crazy one in constant need of attention and affection and snuggles?”

His silence said all I needed to know.

Bessie, aka Jon. The chilled out, obedient dog with a voracious appetite who has never met a food she doesn't like. Her dad, on the other hand, has met two foods he doesn't like: olives and corned beef.
Olive, aka me. She's prone to run off chasing things that interest her, often lashes out at strangers, and is sometimes too smart for her own good.
But let's be honest here, this is how you normally find Olive, because she's a total attention whore.

Wordless Wednesday: my children

Bessie dog.
Olive Pup.
Happeee Ollie.

These two dogs are best friends.  For the better part of the last hour, while I sat drinking my coffee and internetting, as golden sunshine filtered through the curtains in our living room, they’ve been wrestling and playing tug-of-war with their rope toy.  Jon sat on the couch, having just got in after working a night shift at the hospital, and he said: “I don’t know how anyone could watch these two play and decide to have only one dog.” It’s true. Two dogs are better than one. They entertain each other, they bring out each other’s dog-ness, and they’re almost as fun to watch as TV.  Sure, it was a pain in the ass trying to find a rental house that would allow my two large dogs, but I found one, and I wouldn’t trade my two puppers for anything.

I wish I’d known her then

Both of my puppygirls. Olive is the black one. I've yet to see a "Baby Bessie" because apparently cow-spotted catahoula mixes with golden eyes are rare.

There are many benefits to adopting an older dog– by they come your way, they can sleep through the night without crying, they’re potty trained, and they have less of a propensity for chewing on your stuff (though lord knows both of my adopted-as-older-dogs have chewed PLENTY of my stuff).  But one major drawback of adopting an older dog is you don’t get to know them as puppies, don’t get to see what they look like when they are small and fuzzy and cuddly wuddly, all chubby bellies and slightly out of control paws.

We adopted our second dog, Olive, what we believe to be a lab/border collie mix, the Christmas before last.  She was less than a year old, and had been found in the woods near my parents’ home by a family friend, so starved they initially thought she was dead.  I don’t know who left her, or if she ran off, or how she ended up in the woods.  I see hints that someone must have been mean to her– the way she is terrified I’m going to hit her with a broom when I sweep the floors, the way she thinks every raised object might be used to strike her, the way she cowers and sometimes pees on herself if I use too forceful of a voice with her. Continue reading “I wish I’d known her then”

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