Make Room For Puppy

Four days ago, our family grew by one: we welcomed Fenwick, our fourth CCI puppy, to the fold.
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Don’t mind the green around his ear; that’s just a little extra ink from his uber-cool tattoo.

We’d been planning to get another CCI pup since before we turned Jambi in for Advanced Training, but a puppy wasn’t available to us until last week. We met him at the airport, a howling bundle of fuzz that couldn’t wait to get out of the kennel where he’d been cooped up for more than twelve hours. Annie had stayed home sick that day, so she ventured with us to get Fenwick; on our way home, we drove by their elementary school right at Ella’s lunchtime… so an impromptu meet-and-greet was held in the school parking lot.

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What? Don’t all the sick kids wear magician star skirts on their days home from school?

Half Golden Retriever and half Labrador Retriever, Fenwick (we don’t name them, btw, but I think his name is very dignified – in a Brit-lit kind of way – and pretty rad all-around) has a very clear Golden look. He’s absurdly fluffy and soft, not at all wiry like Labs tend to be, and by far the smallest puppy we’ve had. He is also crazy loud when he’s left alone and prefers not to be, screaming in a freakish way that is almost human. Aww, puppies!

The girls took to him immediately, declaring him “The cutest dog ever!” and cuddling with him and carrying him around in that way that children do with puppies and cats that makes you question whether small humans and small animals should ever share the same space. Then they torture play with him and help wash him and any Hey, you dropped me on the tile floor and could’ve killed me memories are all but forgotten.
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See the leaf? You can’t eat it! But you can look at it! See it? Don’t eat it! Look – a leaf! Leaves aren’t for dogs! I CAN DO THIS ALL DAY.

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Okay, okay… so maybe peeing in my kennel wasn’t such a good idea…

Nick seems to think that Fenwick is just dandy, but he went out of town less than twenty-four hours after picking him up, so his opinion doesn’t fully count. Which leaves me as the lone hold-out who isn’t completely smitten with this adorable little furball.

I’m not sure why, exactly. I knew it would be difficult – eight week-old puppies almost always are. They wake you up at night to go to the bathroom, they whine when they’re displeased, they pee and poop in the house indiscriminately and sometimes wind up soaked in their own urine. (This is eerily similar to most two year-old humans.) They nip at your fingers and hemlines and shoes, they put everything in their mouths – especially the things that shouldn’t go there – and they are utterly unpredictable. (This is exactly like most two year-old humans, except it’s legal to lock them in cages.)

I knew all of this going in, and I was prepared. Cleaning up the umpteenth mess of the day (five minutes after I let him out and with absolutely zero warning or preamble) is exhausting – but that’s not really why I’m not crazy for this boy yet. I don’t dislike him – he’s got that delightful puppy breath and is and full of zany puppy energy and makes little grunting noises when you hold him and likes to drag a stick around the backyard that’s six times longer than he is, which cracks me up to no end. I’m just not all in quite yet.

I know – I know! – how can I not be completely taken in? I mean, look at this guy.
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Seriously? SERIOUSLY.

I think part of it is that we’re going out of town next weekend, so I’m almost afraid to put too much into it because I’m half-worried that he’ll forget us entirely in our absence. I’m also worried that he’ll still be up in the night and will be soiling the floors at regular intervals when our petsitter is here and, well, I’m just nervous, so I’m not jumping in fully to enjoy him. I think part of it is that I miss Jambi – not just any old puppy, but Jambi specifically – and when Fenwick’s personality diverges from hers, it’s a reminder that she’s gone, and that’s hard.

But I think the biggest reason I’m not totally head over heels for this puppy is that Langston isn’t head over heels, which is not at all what I expected. He and Jambi were ridiculously good pals, playing and lounging and napping together from day one. He’s also been really friendly with other dogs, though, so we assumed that he would love having a puppy around again – especially since he’d been practically bouncing off the walls with boredom since we turned Jambi in. When we brought Fencick home and introduced them, I actually said to Lang, “We brought you a present!” (Yes, I talk to my dogs as though they’re human. Preach it.)

To my dismay (and surprise), Langston doesn’t care. In some ways, he’s even annoyed by Fenwick – which, upon closer inspection, I guess I can understand. Fenwick bites at Langston’s wagging tail, causing him to yelp with pain; he attempts to gnaw on his hind legs as though they were teething toys; he jumps up on him in a never-ending game of Notice Me! Notice Me! Notice Me!

I’d been so convinced that Langston would be thrilled that we were bringing home another puppy, I didn’t even consider how it would feel if he wasn’t completely taken with the new dog. Turns out, I’d been putting a lot of stock into the two of them getting along, to being buddies, and now that it hasn’t played out that way (yet), I’m really bummed.

I say “yet” because I know that it’s only been four days… four days out of the sixteen months that Fenwick will be with us. He’s only a baby. We’re all still adjusting. Hell, he’s still on west coast time – jet leg will do strange things to a dog. I know that there’s plenty of time for Langston to come around – or not. Maybe they’ll never be the best of pals. But there’s plenty of time to adjust to that, too, and for me to fall in love with this smooshy little buddy simply because he’s him, rather than because he’s Langston’s companion.

And yet… Last night, I’d invited Langston up on the couch to chew the new favorite bear we’d gotten him, keeping it safe from Fenwick’s shark puppy teeth. A moment later, however, Langston had gotten off the couch – bear in hand mouth – and walked over to Fenwick… to play. With his bear. Langston wanted to play with Fenwick by sharing his bear. Oh, be still my heart!

They played longer than this, but I was so busy watching like a giddy buffoon for the first minute or so, I didn’t even think about grabbing my phone until Ella said, “Mom! Don’t you want to record this??” She is so my daughter.

You guys, my heart soared. So yeah, they only played together for about five minutes today, and that was only because Langston grew so tired of Fenwick trying to nip him to death, he decided to nip back and some dog-mouth-play ensued, but still. It’s a start! And a good reminder to me that, like people, no two dogs are alike – and it’s pretty unfair to judge one based on the other. Today, Fenwick ate all of his dinner (woo hoo) and let me know each time he needed to go out to poop, so overall, it feels like a win. He’s responding to his name and walking better on a leash and feels just absolutely perfect in my arms.

We’ll get there. I’m not worried. Neither is Fenwick. It’s all good – doggone it.

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Dog tired.

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Dog Days

So. For a moment there, we thought we might have killed our black Lab, Langston. This dog loves, loves to run and fetch a ball, but we avoid doing so when the temps get too high because he seems to become overheated really quickly. This morning, I knew the front lawn needed to be mowed and, seeing that it was already warm and humid, wanted to get it done as early as possible. As such, I decided to skip my daily dog walk, but didn’t want Lang to get zero exercise, so I asked Nick if he’d throw the ball for our boy. He agreed.

At 9 a.m., it was hazily sunny and 77 degrees (“real feel” 82) with 60% humidity — warm, for sure, but not what either of us considered even remotely dangerous in terms of a short ball-throw. Still, they came inside less than five minutes later — which is not atypical, given, you know, that our pup is covered in a thick layer of black fur. Langston, as usual after a fetch session, was panting like a maniac, tongue lolling from his mouth, and he slurped up water like he’d never been hydrated before. All typical. We even joked – “Sorry that run was so short, dude, but we don’t want you to get heatstroke, hahaha.”

We started to go about our business – Nick on an errand, me to the front lawn – when Nick’s voice took on a different pitch as he said, “Uhhh, Em… It looks like Langston’s legs are shaking. I think he’s having trouble standing.” Indeed, he was, so we watched him more closely and saw, without question, that he was in some major distress: completely disoriented, walking into walls, staggering and stumbling, falling down to the ground. He didn’t seem to recognize his name and responded to none of our attempts to calm or communicate with him.

It didn’t take long to put two and two together to realize that, joking aside, Langston suffering from very real heatstroke — or, at the very least, he was so overheated, he couldn’t think (or stand) straight. We knew we had to cool him off, fast, and decided to guide him back outside so we could thoroughly wet him with the hose. The moment we helped him out the door, he began to wander through the lawn, with me running after him – and him becoming both confused and freaked out that a strange person (he really didn’t recognize me) was freakin’ chasing him – while he circled aimlessly (but fast; that boy can move) until I finally caught up with him and took a hold of his collar.

Worst game of tag ever.

At last, I led Lang to our front walk (cooler than the grass), where Nick soaked him with the hose… and then he collapsed in a heap. Still panting, still awake, but having no strength to hold himself up anymore. For the next twenty minutes, we ran the hose in a trickle under him, creating a cool puddle in which he could lounge, and drink, until gradually he seemed to be out of the danger zone: perking up when he heard his name, looking at us with brighter eyes (Hey – when did you guys get here?!), and thumping his tail in the puddle behind him, happily splashing us all.

When he finally reached “fine” — still hot and panting, but otherwise okay — we turned off the hose and brought him back inside; this time, he was able to walk in entirely on his own. After another half hour or so of resting, his breathing slowed to normal, his strength had returned, and he seems to be no worse for wear.

Nick and I, however – and our girls, who watched, terrified, from inside while we helped our boy get back to good – will not forget.

All of this is my long-winded way of saying:
Dog owners: please, please be super careful with your pups out in the heat. This may seem like a no-brainer – it certainly was for us (or so we thought) – but, as we learned, heat can cause trouble faster than you may realize.

It did not appear to be too hot. Langston did not run for any longer than he usually does. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary… and yet, it was too much for our boy.

Will we run him again this summer? Of course. He loves it, and we love watching him love it. But we will be more cautious. With that heavy fur coat, what seems “warm” to us can obviously be “omg sweltering” to dogs, and so even walking him – and our other pups –  around the neighborhood is going to be a careful, slow, water-filled endeavor.

I started to post this on my Facebook page, but decided to put it out here publicly hoping that if even one other person reads it and is a wee bit more careful with their dogs in these sticky, sunny days, it will be worth it. Or, heck, if even one person who has gone through a similar experience reads it and feels less alone, it will be worth it. ‘Cause it can happen to anyone, to any dog. Even ours. Even yours.

Dog Days of Summer, indeed.
Phew.

(Note: We did consider taking Lang to the vet, but knew it was most important to cool him down as quickly as possible, so we didn’t want to load him into a hot car for a 20 minute ride when he was already in obvious distress. As he began to cool down, we researched heatstroke in dogs and noticed that he was no longer exhibiting any of the danger signs, so it then seemed unnecessary to bring him in. We will, of course, keep an eye on him, and if anything changes, you can bet your ass he’ll be off… but for now, all is well.)

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Taken just ten minutes ago, with his happy tail wagging so quickly, it’s a blur beside him.

Puzzles and rabbits and cookies. OH MY.

Yesterday, the girls had a dentist appointment. When they both checked out clean and cavity-free, I (naturally) decided that we should all go to Starbucks to celebrate. Annie chose a vanilla milk and Ella a kiddie Frappuccino, to be consumed immediately, but I told them that they’d have to wait until after dinner to eat their Rice Krispie Treat (Ella) and fancy flower sugar cookie (Annie). Both agreed, spiriting away their treats to enjoy them for dessert.

While they ran amok and did homework, I tidied up around the house, most notably after Langston, who seems to be having problems again. I’m still not sure if he’s angry with us (we were out of town last week, so maybe he’s pissed?) or if he just can’t handle any kind of change (see again: out of town), but he’s been a bit of a pill lately. The Friday before we left for Kiawah, I came home to discover that he’d eaten a mango and an entire cantaloupe off of the counter; I knew, because the pulpy cantaloupe guts were littered all over his dog bed, soaking it so thoroughly with juice and grossness that cleaning it up seemed hopeless. Eventually, I gave up and just tossed the entire bed.

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Yesterday, I’d come home to a pile of puzzle pieces strewn all over the kitchen floor. See, they’d been in a plastic ziploc bag on the counter (they’d come in a box too large to be stored in the living room) – a bag that just might have contained something edible rather than crappy pieces of decorated cardboard. But, one never can tell simply by looking (or sniffing), so a thorough tear-through of the bag is necessary to confirm.
And the winner?

Bag: 0
Puzzle: 0
Langston: 0
Me: 0

WE ALL LOSE HERE.

I hadn’t had an opportunity to clean up the puzzle before taking the girls to the dentist, so I put Lang in the kennel while we were gone. When we returned, I decided to have a go at the picking-up whilst the girls ran amok and did homework (see above), so I sent the dogs outside to roam and not make an even bigger mess. After putting away the last piece (back into another plastic bag that will be stored elsewhere, thank you very much), I had just started to make dinner when I glanced out the windows into the yard and noticed that Langston was… eating?… something.

At the very least, he was chewing on something – a stray sock or a mitten were the most likely contenders – and I knew that I had to get outside quickly to haul him in before he ingested it and it got stuck in his intestines and he needed to be rushed to the vet and to have a million x-rays and then to have emergency surgery and, shit, we have a really busy weekend weekend, we do not have time for nonsense. I’ve learned from past ingestions, however, that if I startle or shame Lang, he will try to hide the evidence by scarfing it down even more quickly. Nope, not consuming a knee sock. *gulp* Empty mouth. Nothing to see here.

So I walked casually out the back door, letting the dogs know I was approaching, and called them to me in a breezy voice that definitely did not betray that I wanted Langston to drop whatever was in his mouth rightthisinstant. Normally, this works well, but this time Lang did not come. Instead, he dropped whatever was in his mouth, looked at it intensely, and then picked it up again. I caught a brief glimpse when it hit the ground and knew that this was no mitten; this was alive. I took long, determined strides toward him, panic creeping into my voice as I told him to DROP IT. LEAVE IT. DROP IT RIGHT NOW YOU JERK.

This, of course, prompted him to try to hide the evidence, and he did his damnedest to swallow the creature whole as fast as he could. I reached him just as his snout closed shut, so I had to literally pry it open with my fingers, with the… whatever it was… still resting between his jaws, un-swallowed, as I held his mouth open and shook the thing loose. After a moment or so, out slid a baby bunny, wet and slimy and horribly man doghandled, onto the new spring grass. The poor thing was still breathing slightly, but I knew there was no hope.

Lang had gone effing Watership Down right in the middle of the backyard, the a-hole.

Dumbfounded, I hustled him back inside as he threw furtive glances back toward the mangled bunny. I have to leave? But this was just getting fun! Not trusting him even one little bit with the dinner food on the counters, I made sure to usher him out of the kitchen and to close the gate behind me. After tending to the bunny (RIP, little hare), I made my way back inside to continue the dinner prep when I heard… something… crinkling?… in the living room.

As I swung open the gate and walked up the stairs, there stood Langston – barricaded from the kitchen, but quite happy – crinkling up a pink paper sack as he scarfed down the last remnants of Annie’s prized Starbucks fancy flower sugar cookie, which she had nestled on the living room chair.

Three for three, buddy. Way to go.

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New bed. Feeling shame. At least, he’d better be.

I didn’t touch him (save to guide him right back into the kennel), but I think I blew out my voice yelling at him. Let’s just say I’m glad I don’t have a choir concert coming up. Or a speaking engagement. His misbehavior put me in a foul mood for the rest of the night, with even the girls apologizing to me for his indiscretions (I’m sorry that Langston was such a pain, mama! Do you think maybe you could smile a bit?).

Returning to work this week after preparing to be done has been hard for me. I still love the teaching part – I’m thrilled to be with the students for a longer period of time, and while I’m at school, I feel like I can accomplish anything – but I’m finding it more difficult to balance the rest of things when I’m not in school. I’m not entirely sure why, but it’s just been hard for me.

And, apparently, for Langston too.

It was hard for Annie for a little while last night as well – after learning that Lang had eaten her special dessert – but it all worked out fine for her in the end. Because we also had brought home a flourless double chocolate chip cookie (for one gluten-free chocoholic mama), and after realizing that I had essentially ruined her dessert by foolishly placing Langston in the living room, I offered her my cookie. She tried to defer (“No, really Mama, it’s yours, you should eat it!”), but I insisted. She said it was delicious.

So, I got to clean up a 100 piece puzzle, bury a broken bunny, tend to a crumby mess in the living room, comfort my heartbroken child, AND THEN I DIDN’T EVEN GET TO EAT MY OWN DESSERT.

THAT’S FOUR FOR FOUR, JACKASS.

Sometime soon, maybe I’ll get some sleep and then maybe this dog nonsense won’t bother me so much. In the meantime, at least the girls have good teeth!

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I’m a good boy! Say I’m a good boy!
Wait, is that food?

 

 

 

Lightweight

I love my job – today, the periods were shortened to thirty minutes each (from the usual forty) because of the talent show, and when I reminded my seventh graders of this, one kiddo burst out, “Why is it that the best classes are shortened??” – and it’s been going really well. The logistics have been tricky, and I’m behind in basically every other area of my life, but it’s all been good and worth it.

With that said… great googly moogly, I am SO FREAKIN’ TIRED. There’s just too much to squeeze into each day, and, in order to actually spend a few moments with my children that don’t include screaming over hair-brushing or standing at the thresholds of their bedrooms and uttering some form of, “How is it possible to create such a huge mess in so little time?”,  I wind up doing the majority of the “extra” stuff after the girls go to bed. Which means that I, myself, routinely don’t manage to turn my own light off until at least 1:30 a.m.

I’m usually a morning person, but when that alarm goes off before 7:00 and it’s my fourth consecutive day getting only five hours of sleep, I’m do not have a wonderful feeling that everything is going my way, let me tell you.

I don’t nap. I don’t know why, but I just don’t. I realize that this is a foreign concept for many people (especially my husband), but, as appealing as the couch seems and as cozily as I nestle my head, napping simply doesn’t happen for me unless I’m coming down with some major illness. Or a man cold. Likewise, sleeping in a car or on a plane are out of reach for me, too, no matter how much green eggs and ham you throw in. And falling asleep while watching TV or reading a book? Fuggedaboudit. I am broken when it comes to sleeping anyplace other than my bed, or any time other than when I climb in for the night.

A few weeks ago, Nick asked if I’d like a glass of wine with dinner. I agreed, and then decided to throw caution to the wind and have a second with dessert. (I know, crazytown – but it was Friday night, so you’ll forgive me for really letting loose.) At bedtime, we decided to split up reading with the girls; Nick went to Ella’s room and I settled next to Annie as she opened up her latest Princess Posey tome. She began to read to me (thank God she now pronounces the heroine’s name correctly; she used to call her “Princess Pussy”), and I think I heard the first few words… but I’m not quite sure, because the next thing I remember, I was wiping drool off Annie’s pillow and trying to making up an excuse about how I’d been listening, I was just doing it with my eyes closed. When she finished the chapter and turned off the light, I kissed her goodnight as always… but then asked if she would mind if I just stayed put for awhile. I mean, I was already cozy and warm, and it’s been such a chilly winter…

I awoke around 9:30 p.m. and peeled myself out from underneath her covers. Instead of migrating to the living room to pull out my laptop, however (with hopes of editing some photos, or maybe laying out yearbook pages, or researching lessons, or writing plans, or answering emails, or any of the other myriad items on my To Do list), for the first time in… well, I honestly can’t remember, so it must have been forever… I trudged up to my own bedroom. Nick was already lounging on the bed – technically on my side – but, being so tired that I quite literally couldn’t keep my eyes open, I merely grunted a greeting his way and crawled into bed on his side, sound asleep the instant my head hit the pillow.

Good grief, two glasses of wine and I had passed out faster than free samples at Sam’s Club!

I awoke with a start – comically, like you see in the movies, practically sitting bolt upright from a dead sleep – when Nick (who had also nodded off) got up to use the bathroom, and it somehow registered inside that, Holy crap, I actually went to bed before midnight... and I accomplished NONE of what I needed to that night. Slightly panicked, I glanced at the clock – 1:30 a.m. (great balls of fire!, I’d been asleep for four hours?!) – as I realized that the dogs had not yet been let out for the night. In fact, if Nick and I both had dozed off (or, in my case, passed out cold), the dogs hadn’t been let out since… oh… 6 p.m. or so, and asking them to “hold it” until 9 a.m. was probably a bad idea.

It was then that it dawned on me that I was… damp...?… absolutely everywhere. Because, in my complete and utter exhaustion, I had gotten into bed wearing all of my clothes — including my thick socks, jeans, long-sleeved shirt, and a sweatshirt — and, after lying beneath the sheet, duvet, and comforter for four hours, I had basically sweated myself into oblivion. I managed to shake myself awake enough to remove my (damp) clothing, clean up a bit, and get into some pajamas, and then went downstairs to let the dogs out to do their business.

I did what I always do – open the sliding glass door in our playroom (which is otherwise closed all of the time) to let them romp straight into our backyard – and began to wake up slightly as the chilly night air snuck in. Joey came in almost immediately, as usual, and gobbled his treat as I tucked him into the kennel. Jambi returned shortly thereafter and wandered upstairs, but Langston… Sweet Jesus, y’all, that dog can pee. We are talking, I kid you not, three or four minutes straight and the stream still continues. It’s truly like nothing I’ve ever seen – where does he store all of this liquid? Is he a magician? A sorcerer? – and, quite frankly, sometimes I get bored and check back in with him later.

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Joey was all, Why the hell are you putting my in my kennel in the middle of the day? For a photograph?? Are you nuts? 

As Lang continued to pee… and pee… and pee... I remembered that the dishwasher needed to be run, so I went up to the kitchen and turned it on. While there, I was greeted by the many other things that I’d intended to do that night – tidying up the kitchen, going through the girls’ school folders, making juice for the morning – so I figured, hell, as long as I’m up, I might as well take care of this stuff, too!

Who knew that a four-hour nap can be so energizing?!

After about ten minutes, I heard Langston nosing around in the garage, so I let him in through the kitchen; he and Jambi went back upstairs to the bedroom to wait for me (and their treats). At last, my burst of energy faded, and – feeling satisfied that I’d finally checked off several To Dos – I settled into bed for good around 2:30 a.m. and slept straight through until the girls woke us at 8:30 the following morning.

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They don’t usually share a bed, but they’re cuter that way, no?

TEN, ladies and gentlemen. I got over TEN hours of sleep(!), which is almost double what I normally get, and, good grief, I felt like a new person. There was a spring in my step as I showered and got ready, then made my way downstairs around 9:00 to help the girls with breakfast.

Nick had already beat me down to let the dogs out, however, and was engaged in a lively… discussion… with Ella about some infraction that she, supposedly, had committed.

“Why would you have opened that door? You know you’re not supposed to use that door!”

“I didn’t open it, Daddy!”

“But it’s wide open! It’s freezing down here!”

“I didn’t open it, really. It must have been open when I came downstairs to play.”

“How on earth did it get open? Do you think Joey got out of his kennel and opened it?”

“No, that’s crazy. But I didn’t open it. I promise.”

“Well, if you didn’t open it, why didn’t you at least close it?”

“Because I didn’t know it was open.”

“You didn’t know it was open?? It’s ten degrees outside! This playroom is like ice! How did you think it got so cold down here?”

“I don’t know! I knew it was cold, but it’s always colder in the playroom because it’s near the basement, so I just thought it was regular cold.”

“IT’S TEN DEGREES OUTSIDE!! IT’S ABSOLUTELY FREEZING IN HERE!”

“I just thought it was normal!!”

And that is how I made a horrifying realization: my daughter’s sense of temperature is clearly warped.
And also… in my flurry of “accomplishments” the night before, while waiting for Langston to finish his epic pee, I had inadvertently left the sliding glass door open. All night. When it was ten degrees out.

Whoops.
On the bright side, at least no bugs got in!

I immediately ‘fessed up to my mistake, thereby clearing Ella of any wrongdoing (although, seriously, I don’t know why she didn’t think anything was amiss – it was cold!). I then apologized to Nick, both for leaving the door open (but I did take credit for extracting myself from our nice, warm OMG IT WAS SO WARM AND HOT AND WARM LIKE A DAMN SAUNA AND I NEARLY SWEATED TO DEATH bed in order to let the dogs out, thank you very much) and for drinking enough to knock myself out cold.
That finally got him chuckling.

“Uh, Em. You can’t be serious.”

What do you mean?

“You had two not-at-all-big glasses of wine last night. You drank them an hour apart AND you ate a full dinner and had dessert in between.”

Yes, and…

“And I know you’re the cheapest date in the world, but even you cannot get so drunk on one-and-a-half glasses of wine that you black out at 9 p.m.”

Well, it doesn’t really take a lot to…

“How do you feel this morning?”

What?

“How do you feel right now? Are you hung over?”

WHAT?! No. I’ve been hungover exactly once.* I feel just fine.

* true story. I’m sort of proud and sort of mortified by this at the same time.

“So, yeah. No. You did become even remotely drunk last night. You don’t need to apologize for passing out, are you crazy??”

But then how…?

“I believe it’s called tired. As in, you’ve been staying up SO DAMN LATE recently, your body absolutely couldn’t handle anymore. Sure, the wine may have mellowed things out a bit, but this wasn’t you drinking too much. This was you realizing, somewhere in the back of your mind, that you could let things slide for just one night, and your body finally giving out because you’re exhausted. Actually, I think it was one of the best things that could have happened to you.”

Oh. That might explain why I feel so good this morning after getting so much sleep.

“It might.”

And it might explain why I fell asleep in Annie’s bed. And why I fell asleep on your side of the bed with my clothes on. (GREAT SCOTT, THAT WAS DUMB.) And why I slept for FOREVER.

“Yeah.”

Which would also explain why I forgot to close the sliding glass door, which essentially lets me off the hook entirely…

“Not even remotely.”

Fair enough.

I’d like to say that, since my Friday night snoozefest, I’ve treated myself better and have gotten to sleep at a better hour each night. I’d like to, but that would be lying, so I won’t. I have made it to bed before 1:30 (several times), however, and I have proudly fallen asleep before 9:00 on more than one Friday night since then. DO I KNOW HOW TO HAVE A ROCKIN’ GOOD TIME ON A WEEKEND OR WHAT!

Maybe, someday, I’ll learn how to better balance all of this stuff and I’ll finally figure out how to get more sleep, but until then, at least I’m happy. Happy at my job, happy that the girls are happy, happy that my kids let us sleep in on Saturdays, happy that my husband knows I’m not a lush, happy for wine, and happy that no wild animals snuck into the house and made nests in the heating vents.

Silver lining, people. There’s always a silver lining.

 

It’s like living in my very own Stephen King novel

We all knew there would be an adjustment period when I began this long-term subbing job. It’s been forever since I had a regular, weekday position (the girls’ entire memory, in fact), so it was a pretty good bet that there would be some bumps in the road.

If I’m being totally honest, Ella and Annie aren’t too fond of me teaching. It’s not the end of the world, but they liked it better when I didn’t have to rush off each morning before they head to school, when I didn’t have to rush them in order for me to get off to work, and when I could be available to come into their classrooms more often. Still, they seem to appreciate how much this means to me – and, again, it’s not like their lives have been impacted all that much – so, overall, they’ve weathered the change really well. For his part, Nick has fallen into the swing of morning-dog-feeding and kids-off-to-school ushering and Math-Fact-Helper-ing quite nicely; or, at least, if he’s had a complaint, he’s been wise nice enough not to mention it to me.

For my part, I love my job. I mean… LOVE it. I love using my brain in ways that I haven’t for years. I love the material that I’m teaching. I love how supportive and funny and helpful my new colleagues have been. I love how involved and hardworking and genuinely kind my students have been (which, as anyone who’s ever taught middle school knows – or, hell, as anyone who’s ever survived middle school – knows, is not in any way a guarantee). I love watching my students’ faces light up as they successfully navigate a scale on the keyboards, or their fits of giggles as they rehearse a rhythm-versus-beat skit based on Harry Potter puppets, or their surprised appreciation as they hear how Holst’s The Planets actually sounds pretty damn rad. I. Love. It.

Admittedly, I am a little tired. Actually, I’m freakin’ exhausted. I mean, it wasn’t exactly like my life before subbing was un-full, where the time I now spend teaching and planning and grading and staff-meeting was spent getting manicures and sipping Starbucks, you know? No, even then, my schedule was pretty close to maximum capacity, and “squeezing in” twenty-five hours of teaching (and that doesn’t include lesson plans or grading or researching or any of the other gazillions of tasks that teaching requires) has meant that I am up very, very late accomplishing everything. So, yeah, I’m really damn tired.

But I’m really damn happy. And that makes it all so totally worthwhile.

There is, however, one member of our family who has not taken kindly to my new position, and that would be… Langston.

20140304-134037.jpgAre they still “puppy dog eyes” if he’s not technically a puppy anymore?

Yes, the Gooch, our big ol’ baby of a boy who, a year ago, lasted only eleven days at CCI’s Advanced Training before becoming so anxious, he – in the trainers’ words – “snapped,” bit a dog and a trainer (good times!), and was promptly returned to our eagerly waiting arms.

In short, he missed us so much, he couldn’t handle being away. Which might have been a clue that perhaps he wouldn’t appreciate my being gone every single weekday morning (and often well into the afternoon).

At first, we didn’t know what was up; all we knew was that I’d arrive home to discover an enormous mess in our kitchen (where Langston is gated when we’re not around). Chewed-through school papers, food stolen from the counter, cords gnarled to an indistinguishable mess. We tried giving him peanut butter-filled Kongs or additional toys to hold his attention, but each day I would come home and find myself gathering up tiny pieces of shredded something off of the floor. Do you think Annie’s teacher can give us another copy of her spelling list? How many jelly beans were left in that bag? Dude, were you trying to create confetti??

lang oops2This time, he tore through the plastic baggie holding our Box Tops (’cause you never know what tidbit of taco seasoning might have been be left behind) and also devoured an entire box of crayons. AN ENTIRE BOX OF CRAYONS. Let’s just say that, despite the abundance of snow, our backyard is not exclusively white anymore.

We were all, WTF, Langston? Why on earth are you suddenly behaving like a toddler throwing a tantrum?? And then, a few days later, it dawned on us: He was having a tantrum, because he is pissed as hell that I’m gone. He misses me, and instead of explaining this in a reasonable fashion – like, say, with a Hallmark card and putting old photos of us up on his Facebook wall – he decided to destroy the kitchen. How darling.

Although we (finally) understood his frustration (after all, I am pretty rockin’ – who wouldn’t miss me?), it was simply unacceptable for him to be going Mr. Destructo all the time. Short of stripping the kitchen of every single stray item, there was only one choice: to put him in the kennel with Jambi whenever we’re not home.

He was thrilled.

lang oops
“Are you sure this is necessary? Maybe if you were home more often, this wouldn’t be a problem, no?”

A couple of weeks ago, Nick and I had just settled into the living room couches after the girls had gone to bed, with Langston and Jambi following us and hanging around by the coffee table. Lang approached the spot where I was seated and sidled up ever-so-close, slyly slipping one paw onto the cushions. “What, me? Nope, that’s not my paw. I’m not trying to sneak up next to you… La la la…” I then invited him to join me, assuming that – as usual – he would hop up and seat himself at the foot of the couch while I curled up at the head… but no. He not only cuddled in next to me – he crawled right on top of me, laying his torso entirely across my lap.

Miss me much, Gooch?

Seeing that Lang was getting some good lovin’, Jambi wiggled herself over to us, hoping for some of the same, but – y’all – I could not reach her. Not because my arms aren’t long enough, but because Langston was physically body blocking her so she couldn’t get close to me. Every time she attempted to reposition herself so I could pat her head, Lang shifted himself and shoulder-checked her out of the way.

Despite ourselves, Nick and I couldn’t help but laugh, because his intentions could not have been more clear. “Back up, bitch. She is MINE.” Aw, my number one fan. It’s like living with Kathy Bates.

I have six weeks left to go in this long-term gig. When it’s over, I am definitely going to miss it (although I will certainly appreciate the opportunity to get more than 5.5 hours of sleep a night).

Langston, on the other hand, will not complain.
But you can bet I’ll be keeping extra close track of my painkillers until then.

lang oops3