Thursday, April 23, 2009


Her arrival in our family and in our life is close enough now that I can count it in hours -- and I have been. I'm incredibly excited, but also a little trepidatious. What if all the things I used to know without thinking, I now have to think about? Could I possibly have enough room in my brain for yet another thing?

In other news, life here is good. I feel very much as though I am just in a 'waiting' phase -- waiting for Sasha, waiting for news of G's transplant, waiting to figure out when/whether I'm going back to Tae Kwon Do, waiting while I figure out how committed I am to continuing the flute, waiting for summer, waiting for the next school year. It's not that I'm anxious about any of these things, or waiting for them impatiently (OK, I'm impatiently waiting for Sasha). It's more that this feels like an in-between time.

And maybe that's the crux of the little bit of dissatisfaction I seem to be feeling recently -- if all time is in-between time, then when do we get to the "being" time? The "living" time? Maybe I need to stop thinking of this as a waiting time, and instead milk it for all it's worth.

I'll let you know how that goes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dog, Part IV


She arrives Saturday, April 25th. We could not be more thrilled.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dog, Part III

A few months after we returned Niko to his breeder, we thought we might be ready for another dog. A closer examination of our life, and of the things that had changed in the interim, convinced us otherwise -- new jobs, new house, and other major life changes had placed us in a situation that wouldn't really be fair to a puppy, and we weren't particularly interested in a grown dog at that point.

So, instead, we fostered a dog. She was named Meggie when she came to us, but we changed it to Maggie (largely because the way in which her previous owner family said the word 'meggie' struck us as affected, and if there's one thing a nine-month-old Wheaten should not be, it is stuck-up and affected). When we got her, she was horribly matted because apparently she didn't like to be brushed so her humans stopped brushing her. She also didn't like to have her collar touched, so they attached a leash and left it on. She had a favorite seat in their house, so they made sure not to sit there so that she'd always have access to it. And then they were surprised when their kids would be playing football inside the house (loud and rambunctious) and she would nip at their heels (Wheatens are the only non-herding breed allowed to participate in herding trials -- they are all-around farm dogs).

Poor pup. She was nine months old, and under the impression that she had to be in charge of everything. After three weeks with us, she loved being brushed, was happy to go into her crate at night and during the day, and was excited to have a leash put on or taken off because it meant it was time for a walk/romp or for a treat. Ultimately, because she had a "history of biting" (really, she was trying to herd the kids . . .), she could not go to a family again and instead was placed with an older woman who had a Kerry Blue Terrier and understood the importance, with the terrier temperament, of being an authoritative (not authoritarian) leader.

Maggie was just the right thing at the right time for me. She reminded me that I do know how to deal with a dog and that Niko's behavior was probably not my fault. But her departure left us "between dogs" (the way so many are now "between jobs"), and there we have stayed since 1998.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dog, Part II

Where was I? Oh yes, my parents and siblings got a dog, and I didn't stop speaking to them. Unfortunately for me, though, it wasn't until about seven years later that I finally got my own dog, Niko.

He was a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier pup, and was the sweetest, cuddliest, most wonderful dog ever. Except when he wasn't. See . . . he was food and object possessive, starting at about three months old. I worked with him on it -- spoke with experts on the breed, spoke with his breeder, his vet, worked with a behaviorist, took him to all sorts of obedience classes and agility classes and appropriately established myself as alpha. He had a command vocabulary of about 40 words (starting with 'sit' and 'down,' and going all the way to 'left,' 'right,' 'walk,' 'run,' and a slew of others). Even though he was a terrier - bred to "go to ground" after vermin (a/k/a rodents), he dropped a live chipmunk on my say-so.

But he never reached a point where he wouldn't growl as I walked by him while he was eating, wouldn't snap if I put my hand in his bowl (to add food), or would keep eating calmly as I petted him. Finally, one day, he was on his back on the floor near to where his food bowl usually resided (it was in the dishwasher) and I was rubbing his belly with my foot (I was sitting on a nearby chair). He rolled over, and I absentmindedly rolled him back onto his back to keep petting. He jumped up and bit me. I needed four stitches.

We returned him to his breeder, after many long conversations with trainers -- one of whom said "this is going to be a life-long issue until he is old and his teeth fall out." We intended to have kids someday, and I just couldn't take the chance that Niko would decide that the a child's food should be his -- the bite that gave me four stitches on my leg would have done a lot more harm to a toddler's arm.

It broke my heart to return him. He was happy and peppy and sassy; he was well trained and well behaved. He was loving and calm and mellow. He was a wonderful hiking companion. He showed me how beautiful the world around us is - in all kinds of weather. He gave us countless laughs and cuddles. He would sit and gently lick my tears as I cried when I was sad. He was a companion and confidante. He was a training buddy. To this day, twelve years later, I still miss him.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Dog, Part I

Remember the Simpsons episode where Bart and Lisa sit in the back seat and ask a question while Homer answers it, over and over again?
"Are we there yet?"
"Are we there yet?"
"Are we there yet?"
"Are we there yet?"
"Are we there yet?"
(you get the idea).

Growing up, my relationship with dogs felt very similar:
"Can we get a dog?"
"Can we get a dog?"

There may have been months, or even years, between the times that I asked the question, and I might have followed it up with "why not" (I'm sure I whined that one), or something similar. I always wanted a dog. Apparently, when I left for college I told my parents that if they THEN got a dog, I would never speak to them again.

Fast forward one and a half years -- midway through my sophomore year of college. In the midst of a family vacation, my dad asks if I really meant that threat. (Can you see where this is going?) They got a dog. My sister was just starting high school, and my brother was two years behind her. They got the dog. And no, I didn't stop speaking to any of them.

Monday, April 06, 2009

But mommy, where do they get the organs for G's tranplant?

It's official. Our seven-year-old friend, G, is now listed for a multi-organ transplant. Doctors will remove her stomach, duodenum, small intestine, liver, pancreas and spleen, and replace five out of the six (all except the spleen) with donor organs.

Scary stuff.

If the operation does not happen, G is looking at a lifetime (however long that is) of repeated life-threatening sepsis events, of which her doctors do not believe she will survive another one. And if the operation does happen, then there are all the stresses and difficulties associated with this magnitude of surgery and the recovery, plus the issue of lifelong immunosuppression. But there's also the possibility that she will no longer need a central line, a g-tube and a j-tube, and that she'll be able to eat. That she'll live to go to high school. That she'll be able to travel more than an hour away from her "home hospital." That's she'll be able to attend school.

What lovely, wonderful things to hope for.

As the day has approached for G to be listed, I have been speaking with Kiddo the Elder (KtE) and Kiddo the Younger (KtY) about the prospect. They're both a bit grossed out by the concept, but slowly coming around to the realization that actually, this is a pretty cool thing that modern medicine can accomplish.

And then, a few days ago, in the middle of one of these conversations, KtY looked up at me and said "but mommy, where do they get the organs for G's transplant."

"From the organ fairy, dear." "From the stork." "At Costco."

Don't worry. I didn't actually choose any of these answers. Instead, I led her to it gently. Where do organs exist, out in the world? And could you live without your liver? Ultimately, we agreed that the organs would have to come from someone who had been relatively healthy but had died, who lived in our area of the country, and who was about the same size as G. Then we discussed that the fact that we are hoping for organs for G does not mean that we are hoping for a child to die. Rather, we are hoping that when a child dies -- as, unfortunately, some do -- the people who make decisions about what to do with the child's body decide to donate the organs so that another child can have a chance at a longer and better life.

You know what? Parenting is not for wimps. I've given great thought to how to talk to my kids about all sorts of things, but I never imagined I'd be speaking to them about the ethics of hoping one of their closest friends doesn't die.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

My totally awesome new toy

I recently got a t-mobile G1 phone/music player/movie player/camera/calculator/bubble level/compass/picture viewer/browser/email client/dog walker (OK, I'm only joking about the dog walker -- we don't have a dog, what would be the point?). One of the free pieces of software I downloaded onto it is a barcode scanner. It's marketed as an application that allows you to comparison shop -- you go to the store, scan something, and then the browser opens up and you can look online or at other nearby stores (did I mention the GPS capabilities of this thing yet?) and see if they have it for a better price.

But what the hell? Am I really going to go to a store, only to get back in my car and drive to another store, perhaps to find that the thing I want is out of stock and now I've wasted time and gas? Or, better yet, since I do most of my shopping online anyway, if I'm in a store it's because I need the thing pronto ThankYouVeryMuch, and not two or three days from now.

But I downloaded the software anyway, mostly because I'm a geek like that and I like the idea of having a barcode scanner.

Fast forward to this evening. I had promised someone I would send them information about two hard-to-find books that I have. Problem is, I was having trouble hunting down the information online. So, I took out my trusty new toy and scanned the bar codes. Once the bar code was recognized, I clicked to go to the google book page corresponding to the book, and from there to one of the "buy this book" links.

Cool, no? But wait! There's more . . .

Bringing up the options menu for the page I found to buy the book, I clicked "send page," and my teensy tiny little machine pasted the url into an email, which it then correctly addressed based on the first two letters of the recipient's name (did I mention this is a google device which syncs automatically with my google contacts?). And then I sent the links. Brilliant!

How cool is this? (how geeky am I? Wait. Don't answer that -- I think I already know).