Thursday, June 25, 2015

Conversations Overheard...

Renee is explaining to Anne-Marie what a vegetarian is. She says, "Vegetarians don't eat any animals".  Anne-Marie is bewildered and says to Renee "I'll give you a choice: would you rather be lost in a forest and starve to death or would you rather be lost in a forest and eat fish?

Friday, May 29, 2015

When Your Ballerina Hangs Up Her Slippers

Today marks the beginning of the end of Emma's dance career.  Though ballet has always been her first love, she had been planning to take a break to try something new in her freshman year of high school in 1 year.  She was adamant that she would dance in her 8th grade year.  But when I returned from the parent's meeting and explained the new requirements and the hours she'd need to put in to meet those requirements, her face, and I suspect her heart, dropped.  She loves ballet. She's danced since she was 4.  The transformation I've seen in her confidence and grace over these many years has been well worth the aggravation of driving her to classes and rehearsals for the past 9 years, though it didn't feel like it at the time.  I remember watching her in children's ballet, yawning and watching all the other kids' feet, questioning why we enrolled her in something we weren't sure she enjoyed. I remember seeing her face the very first time she danced on stage at her first Spring Performance in Ballet 2.  She was absolutely radiant. I remember her Nutcracker audition rejection letter, which was so kindly worded that she felt fine.  I went in my room and cried for her because no one wants their child to be rejected.  The next year, she was accepted and I called my friend Julie to come down and record me giving her the great news.  Emma was thrilled.  She was accepted 2 more times after that and it was wonderful every time. These days, she dances across the floor in the hallway gracefully. It's really a beautiful sight.

There have been many tears shed in this house since the decision was made.  There have been late night talks and early morning conversations trying to help her through this process.  There has been anger on my part at her having to make this decision at all. I have shed tears for the pain she is experiencing. Just thinking about her walking away from something that has brought her so much joy breaks my heart. To say we are grieving the loss of this special part of her life is accurate. But there is no great loss without some small gain.  Many dancers, even girls her age, are forced out by injury. Though it's not the way she'd imagined, she did get to make her own decision to retire. There is something to be said about knowing that your last classes, rehearsals and performances are the last. Her 8th grade year is going to be one she can enjoy to the fullest, exploring new interests and spending time with her friends before they scatter to different high schools.  Every September through December of the last 3 years has been booked solid with classes and multiple rehearsals on the weekends.  We've worn a rut in the road that leads to BalletMet.  We've probably driven thousands of miles between here and there over these 9 years. This fall she'll fill her time with the unknown.  What new talent, hobby or interest will she discover now that she isn't dancing what felt like every waking moment?  What might our family be able to experience in these precious few years we have left with her at home now that our weekends won't be booked with rehearsals?  Watching your children grow up and make hard decisions makes moms and dads grow up a little more, too.

Tonight she begins the final series of performances of her career.  Tomorrow night our family, her dad and I, her brother and sisters, her grandparents from out-of-state and her grandmother whose legs are troublesome, will be in attendance for her swan song.  How much of her performance I'll be able to see through my tears, I don't know.  Even thinking of her final curtain call is almost more than I can bear.  All I know for certain is that Emma is becoming a disciplined and confident young lady, thanks in no small part to BalletMet. And I am grateful.

Such little dancing beauties.  Emma is probably 8-years-old in this picture.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The First Year with Molly: How a Non-Animal Lover Adjusted to Dog Ownership

It's been a year since we adopted our beautiful Golden Retriever, Molly.  If you recall, I felt very strongly that Molly was meant for our family.  I prayed about adopting a dog for at least a year.  For months up till we got the call that she was available, I could think of nothing but what joy adding a dog to our family would bring my children and even me and Kevin.  I really and truly believed that this dog was in God's will for our family.

Then it might surprise you, as it did me, that the first several weeks of dog ownership I cried daily.  I could not stop feeling overwhelmed with the new added responsibility of dog ownership.  I felt that I had made a huge mistake.  I can only liken it to postpartum depression.  I may know a little (a lot) about that.  I was constantly exhausted.  I couldn't eat. I was stressed, worried, fearful of the dog around the kids, felt certain that this dog was going to ruin everything I had worked hard to achieve and very confused.  You can see why I might be confused, one day feeling absolutely certain and the next like I've made a huge mistake.

If you're feeling that way too about your new dog, let me tell you what I did to ease my frayed nerves. First, I talked about it with dog owners and people who I knew would not tell me "I told you so".   I discovered that I was not the only person to ever feel overwhelmed with a new pet. I learned that even people who had always had dogs and always loved dogs felt that way when they brought home a new pet.  I cannot tell you how comforting that was to me.  I stopped feeling like a failure and started feeling like maybe I could figure this out.

Secondly, I stopped thinking of the dog as a child.  So many people talk about their dogs as their "fur babies"  and that dogs are "forever toddlers" (by the way, who in their right mind wants THAT?) that I got myself all worked up about raising this strange child who licked goose poop on our walks.  What do you even do with that?  If you are a fur baby- dog toddler person, great.  No condemnation from me at all. But it's not for me.  I started thinking of her as what she is: a dog; a pet.  Once I realized she is an animal and not a child I have to raise to adulthood and send to college, I was able to calm down a little bit more.

Thirdly, I hired a fan-frickin-tastic dog trainer.  Andrea formerly trained service dogs, so...there you have it.  What else is there to say?  She was the absolute key to me not losing it and Molly staying as a member of our family.   She came to our home and gave us private "How to own a dog" lessons. More than training Molly, she trained us.  She advised me against dog food snobbery, which turned out to be very important for Molly as her system cannot handle the current "best diet for dogs": grain free.  She told me things the vet didn't bother to mention.  She took my calls at 7am.  She completely understood how I could be so overwhelmed, even though she's trained dogs since she was a child. Andrea taught us how to teach Molly to be the dog we hoped to have.  Molly doesn't know this, but she owes Andrea a huge debt of gratitude.

She now has a full name so I can yell at her properly.  It's Molly Aggie Muster Smith because she was born on April 21, Aggie Muster, one of the greatest traditions at Texas A&M. Molly has made some great progress over the last year. She has learned how to be a family dog and get along with rambunctious little  people.  She still eats socks, but I'm told dogs grow out of that.  She has been known to bring us stuff she once would gobble down without a hesitation so we can tell her she's a good dog for not eating it.  She tests her boundaries, but she always obeys when corrected.   Just today, I accidentally let her out off her lead. She ran into the neighbors yard and looked at me like she was going to run, but she came back when I told her to come!  She still digs holes and sits on the plants.  I choose to look at it as an excuse not to garden anymore.  The kids ran through the plants and broke stems with soccer ball already. I was only half-assing it anyway.   I was afraid of all the extra dirt, but my home is actually cleaner, at least in the areas Molly is allowed, because the kids don't leave their junk all over the place for Molly to eat/chew.  I hate dog hair, so the house gets vacuumed frequently.

In just one year with us, she's taught the kids responsibility of caring for an animal. She's definitely part of our family. We all love her.  Molly's place in our home is secure.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Mother's Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for my family, who creates work and filth, chaos just shy of  disaster in their wake. And thanks for sending them to school and work all day. Even if it is an early release day. Amen. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dusting Off and Recommitting

Dusting off the ol' BodyBugg today.  Somehow, over the course of the last 11 months, I got overconfident and also lazy.  I blame it on losing focus and mojo.  I've beaten myself up enough for letting it happen and now I'm wiping the slate clean.  I'm recommitting to my fitness goals, not for a size or a number on a scale this time (though measurable goals are absolutely critical), but for my future.  I've seen the writing on the wall and what it says is if I don't get my act together PRONTO, I will not be living the life I've envisioned. If I don't learn from the people around me who haven't made their health and fitness a priority,  I will end up in those same elastic waistband pants and unable to do all the things I want to be able to do as soon as more of my time belongs to me.

So, I crave accountability partners.  If you want to be held accountable to your own goals, or if you just want to help me be accountable, please feel free to find me on My Fitness Pal and send me a friend request or like my page on Facebook.   This is a tough time of year to start a new fitness goal, but I'm ready!  I hope you'll follow along with me and maybe even join me!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Where Does the Time Go?

Ten years ago this morning, I overheard the labor and delivery nurse say that I was scaring the other patients in the maternity ward as I struggled to deliver a 9 pound 9 ounce behemoth with natural childbirth who was in a hurry to be born after missing his due date by one day.  He was was born and Kevin said,  "It's a boy!" I was filled with joy!  He had a 2-year-old sister at home waiting for him. We could not have been more thrilled to welcome Andy into the world.

Andy is my precious only son, an excellent student, a natural athlete and a tenderhearted punk.  He loves soccer above all sports, playing since he was in preschool.  He is always kicking something around.  If it rolls or slides, it's getting kicked.  He loves to kick Molly's chew toys so much that Kevin sometimes hides them.  On the pitch, he's an outstanding defender who plays the entire 50 minutes of every match except for water breaks.  He's a tough competitor who forgets the outcome of the game the second the whistle blows to end it and is back to being a carefree kids as soon as the team meeting is over. This ability to transition quickly is one of our favorite characteristics of his.  His favorite player is Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Argentina. His favorite teams are Columbus Crew and Everton F.C. (English Premier League).

Over the last year, Andy has grown 2 inches!   I suspect that he will pass me in height by the time he's 12.  I'm 5'6".  He wears a size 8 men's shoe.  He orders off of the adult menu, but he's as skinny as a rail.  Even the slim pants for his height are too big.  He's like his dad who has worn the same size pants since he was a teenager.  These high metabolism men are enough to make a woman crazy.

I'm happy to share that over the last year Andy has overcome his dislike for showing affection to his mommy.  It's very awesome that he's overcome that because it's really annoying to have a kid who won't let you hug and kiss him. He's gone through all the various phases of boyness, not liking to be hugged or kissed or cuddled beginning when he was SEVEN!!! (NOT COOL).  I would go out of my way to make him sit with me at Mass because at church he would hold my hand, lean on my shoulder and stand in front of me so I could put my arms around him.  As soon as Mass was over, that was over, too.  Recently, he's remembered how to kiss me with his lips and NOT his teeth because he was giggling too much at the thought of kissing his mom.  He also hugs and will let me hug him.

Andy loves his sisters.  They all get along so well. Very often, he plays so well with one of them that they earn the nicknames Frick and Frack.  He takes the play to a whole different level when they get going.

Andy loves his dog, Molly.  He loves to kick her chewing toys and chase her.  He loves video games, especially Minecraft and FIFA 14.  He likes to ride his bike to and from soccer practice in the summer when the sun stays out.  For his birthday dinner, he has requested macaroni and cheese and ice cream cake.  He's an all-around good kid.

 Happy birthday, Andy.  Daddy and I love you and we are so proud of you.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Next Big Adventure

The time has finally come.  It's a day I've been looking forward to and dreading at the same time.  Andy started asking when he was 5 and I told him the answer would be yes when he turned 10.  Truthfully, I was hoping he'd forget.  I had a lot of great reasons to say no, after all.  Babies take a lot of energy.  Toddlers need a lot of patience and get into everything.  Preschoolers are busybodies.  School-aged children are involved in a lot of after school activities.  The house is always messy.  There isn't enough time.  There isn't enough money. I'm tired.  These are all still true.  It's always gonna be something.  Sometimes you just have to have faith.

Last summer Kevin gave the go-ahead on the dog adoption application process, so I started with the research. I read books.  I read blogs.  I read research.  I spoke with owners. I spoke with vet assistants.  I spoke with groomers. I spoke with rescue workers. I prayed. Mostly, I prayed.  And I didn't tell anyone who might think I was crazy.  Believe me, I know that much already. 

Last summer, I narrowed my search to Newfoundlands, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Golden Retrievers.  I presented the options to Kevin, and he chose what I knew (and hoped) he would: Golden Retriever.  So, I put out an application at several Golden Retriever rescues around Ohio and one at Pilot Dogs, the service dog training center.  Then...nothing happened.  Months went by with no word and really not much further thought.  It was a long cold winter and I was really glad not to be out with a dog in a polar vortex.  As the calendar began to promise nicer weather and when Andy's travel basketball season ended, Kevin once again gave me the nod.  I applied to adopt several dogs on, all to no avail.  Weeks and weeks went by and no dogs that fit our plan were available.  I prayed a lot and asked God to either bring us the perfect dog or remove the desire to have a dog from my heart.  I began to feel that maybe the answer to my prayer to find a dog was "Not now".  Anne-Marie and Renee reminded me that maybe the answer was "I have something much better in mind". These kids really do listen in Mass.

Friday morning I was lamenting our inability to find a dog to my mother-in-law.  I told her how rescues like to know the history of a dog when they are placing  it with a family with young children and that we might not have a dog until Anne-Marie was 8.  I was starting to become ok with that possibility.  Not even two hours later, Pilot Dogs calls and says, "We have a Golden Retriever available.  Are you still interested?"  We met her that afternoon, and I'd be lying if I said a I wasn't scared.  I felt like I did when I was in labor with each of my children (minus the pain). I was elated and terrified at the same time.  I couldn't stop shaking and my hands were like ice. But then I met her.

Here is how I know she is the answer to our prayer:  She is from Pilot Dogs, which was my first hope for our dog. Her name is Molly.  Kevin tried 3 times to name our daughters Molly.  She was born on April 21st, also know as Aggie Muster, a very important date in the tradition of our beloved Texas A&M.  Andy is turning 10 this year.  And Molly is absolutely beautiful! She's the perfect specimen of a Golden Retriever, if you ask me. 

Today is the day we pick her up.  My anxiety and fear of making this commitment has been melting away and being replaced with excitement and anticipation.  We are ready!  Let's do this.