Thursday, February 18, 2010

Our Beagle, Food and the Kids

Our dog has been real obnoxious lately when we are eating. She is a beagle, a breed of scent hound known for being extremely food-oriented and food-motivated. Before kids, we never ever gave her any people food, partly because she has some food allergies but also to help discourage the begging. But now there are kids and a highchair and food being dropped on the floor and food being left on the table within dog nose/tongue reach (she is big and tall for a beagle). The dog is becoming insane.

The rule is that the dog is not allowed in the kitchen while we are eating, but she can come in and clean up the floor when we are done and release her. We consistently enforce the rule (although the nanny does not always enforce it), but stubbornness is also a well-known trait of beagles. We constantly tell her to get out of the kitchen. She KNOWS she is supposed to stay in the family room on the carpet while we are eating mere feet away in the kitchen which is open to the family room. Yet every chance she gets, she tries to find a way into the kitchen. More than 2 dozen times each meal, we are telling her to get out of the kitchen, to go sit down, to GET OUT! Even the Pumpkin knows this, and in fact tells on the dog every time she makes it into the kitchen.

Then the other evening, she snuck in the kitchen when I was up getting a spoon or something. I turned around to see the dog's face stuffed into the highchair WHERE THE BABY WAS SITTING. As I was reaching out to the dog and telling her no, the baby let out a cry. That dang dog took the teething biscuit right out of the baby's hand! She didn't bite the Pookie--she's not a biter, and his hand didn't have any marks on it--but that is unacceptable!

So now when she doesn't listen and can't seem to help herself from trying to get into the kitchen and get the kids' food, I make her go upstairs and put her in her crate. She howls and whines, but she is at least out of the kitchen and I can let go of some of the tension from constant vigilance. I know she wants to be part of the family, as beagles are also extremely social, pack animals and generally hate to seperated from the pack. But she can't seem to help herself, and I can only take so much.

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The summer of 2001, Londo and I had been talking about getting a dog. Our cat was two years old, fiesty, sweet and, well, a cat. While I loved having the cat, I had grown up with dogs in the house and really wanted a dog. Londo was on board in theory, but maybe not sure of how ready he was. He grew up with cats and dogs, but in he lived in the country where the animals stayed outside. This would be a big adjustment for him, and he wasn't sure how to account for the house training when we were both working full days and he had grad school.

On September 11, 2001, tragedy struck. That day, Londo and I both came home early from work, sat on the couch stunned and watched news channels all day long. By evening, I turned to Londo and say, "We are getting a dog this weekend." He immediately agreed.

To me, dogs are so comforting. In times of distress and pain, the dogs I've had come right up to you and snuggle their sweet, furry faces into you, willing you to feel better. That day, I longed for that type of comfort. Our cat is not a lap cat, and though he is good for leg rubs, he does not provide that unconditional, want-you-to-feel-better, sympathetic snuggling that dogs do.

I had done a lot of research on breeds, and I felt that beagles would be the best breed for us and still be under the weight restriction of the apartments where we lived at the time. I followed up on an ad about beagles for sale and made plans to visit the breeder that weekend. We drove 45 minutes to a house in the Georgia countryside and met with a friendly woman and husband, who showed us their latest litter of beagles. We were the first to respond, and we would get the pick of the litter. We did all the little dog personality "tests" and picked out an adorable little puppy with a mostly black back, cute "tick" markings on her belly, a black/brown/white face and the softest ears you've ever felt. She was not too shy, not too agressive.

We brought her with us when we went inside the house to sign the papers. She had never been inside before, and she was overwhelmed. She scampered under the dining room hutch, and we had to pull her out when we were ready to leave. On the 45 minute ride back to our house, she rode in my lap the whole way, sleeping while I stroked her soft puppy fur.

Like the cat, we named her after a science fiction character (cause we are geeks like that). She loved the cat right off, although the cat took some time to adjust to her. She also loved the cat's food and litter box, both of which had to be put out of her reach very quickly.

She's always been very good natured, although a bit needy and stubborn. She's been a wonderful dog, and we feel so lucky to have her.

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The dog believes that the nanny comes to our house every week day for her. I'm sure of it. Our nanny loves the dog and gives her a ton of affection, though she is sure to reprimand her and try to enforce the rules of the house (mostly). The dog LOVES the nanny. She also loves being able to hang out in the house all day with her and the baby. Our beagle has some separation anxiety issues, which is common for the social beagle breed. If she is alone in the house, she needs to be in her crate where she feels safe and secure.

Every day, the beagle goes WILD from the moment she hears the lock in the front door jingling until the nanny makes her way through the baby gate into the family room, yelping and running around in circles. This at least distracts the dog from trying to get into the kitchen for, oh, a nanosecond.

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When we pulled the highchair out of the basement for the Pookie, the dog was SO excited. She knew what this meant, and she couldn't have been more thrilled. I should have known then that she was about to become a huge pain in the butt. I still had hope that she would be somewhat manageable, as she had been since the Pumpkin was out of the highchair. Beagles have great memories and are really smart dogs, but they can also be persistent and sneaky. Our dog remembered that the highchair in the kitchen meant more food on the ground, and I believe she started right then to planning ways for getting that food before any humans could stop her.

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This morning, the dog was being relentless. It was one of those breakfast times when everyone needed something at the same time, and I hadn't even had my coffee yet! As I jumped from one breakfast-making activity to another, the dog snuck in the kitchen under the table, dove into the kitchen to try to snatch up the food the Pumpkin dropped, and then snuck in again and stuffed her face into the highchair next to the baby's leg!

Keys jiggled in the front door, the dog went crazy. I sighed and put my head in my hands. The nanny came in, greeting the dog while trying to keep her from jumping up and from running into the kitchen. Once the nanny took over feeding the Pookie, I went upstairs to finish getting ready. I took the dog with me.

I did my makeup and put on work clothes, and the dog sat in front of the bedroom door whining to be let out. Downstairs there was FOOD! and the NANNY! and FOOD! Finally, I opened the door and let her out, though I stayed behind to collect a few last minute things.

As I walked down the stairs, I could hear the Pumpkin trying to get the dog to do something, or not do something, I wasn't sure. I immediately thought she was after my daughter's food, and I was getting frustrated. But when I looked into the family room, my daughter was in there, and the dog was right near her. I asked what was going on, and the Pumpkin said that she was trying to get the dog to play with her toy. Not the Pumpkin's toy, I quickly realized, but a dog toy.

The Pumpkin was throwing the dog toy so that the dog could chase it and fetch it back. The nanny was playing tug of war with the dog. I showed the nanny and the Pumpkin the best and safest way to get the dog to give the toy back so that the Pumpkin could throw it for her again. Then I watched them as I cleaned up the kitchen. The Pookie was in the nanny's lap, enjoying the entertainment by two of his favorite things to watch.

The Pumpkin threw that toy for the dog until my sweet little dog was too tired to keep playing. She plopped herself down and chewed on the toy. The Pumpkin at first tried to get her to keep playing, but I explained that she is an old dog and gets tired. She needs to rest a bit. But wasn't that fun? The Pumpkin seemed to understand, and we got her shoes on and left for school, calling out good bye to the nanny, the Pookie and the dog (and the cat) on our way out the door.

Beagles are also known for being great with kids. It was a large part of the reason we picked a beagle, knowing back then that she'd (hopefully) be around when we started having kids. She's a great dog.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Potties and Underpants

Before the Pookie was born, the Pumpkin had been interested in the potty. I think we could have pushed it then, but with the baby coming we did not think it was a good time. Then she went into her recent regression, which included potty training/diaper changing regression. When we tried to encourage the potty by asking if she needed/wanted to go, we mostly got "No, thanks" or some variation of screaming no. She was perfectly happy to sit in her wet diaper. She WANTED to be in a peed in diaper. She WANTED it to leak. She told us these things in no uncertain terms.

Our response of course was too bad. You can't stay in a pee diaper and WE do not want it to leak. So if she wasn't going to use the potty, we were at least going to change her diaper. Even if she screamed the whole time. Ah, parenthood...

This was frustrating because at school she'd been using the potty all the time. At home? Forgetaboutit. Except right before bed, but that had been part of the bedtime routine since she was 10 months old when we found out it was much easier for her to poop when sitting on the potty.

We thought it must be a problem of motivation. We tried putting her in underwear, hoping that would get her excited to use the potty. But no, that just made sure we'd have leaks and clean ups. More recently, we tried bribing encouraging by using chocolates as incentive, and that actually was mostly working.

Over the last week, a few things (in addition to the chocolates rewards) converged to make potty training the Pumpkin not only possible, but a good idea.

1. The Pumpkin's school had requested that she start wearing underwear to school. She is always using the potty there, and apparently she's keeping her pullups dry in between. They think she's ready. We told her about it, and she was excited.

2. We've stopped asking and started telling her that it's time to go potty. A couple weeks ago I was talking with my sister, and she mentioned that she noticed we ask the Pumpkin questions which can create conflict when some things aren't up for discussion. She said that she and her husband had been doing that too, but things have improved since they stopped asking and started telling. So I told the Pumpkin that just like at school, when we say it's time to go potty, it's time to go. We aren't asking anymore. (We have tried this before, especially for the potty, but it did not work at the time, which brings me to the next item...)

3. She's just ready. I can't say it better than Karen did in a recent post when she said her potty training theory, "It's easier to wait until a child is ready than to fight them until they're ready." Because we were fighting with her and struggling with this... and then... she was ready. And it's been pretty darn easy.

4. The blizzard(s) had kept us all house bound for over a week. No pressures of holidays, no worries that we need to find bathrooms in public places. Just all of us at home for a week with a child who was ready for potty training and excited about wearing underwear to school. One of us was able to bring her to the bathroom every 1.5 to 2 hours, all day long. This was good timing!

5. I think one of the biggest issues for my girl was the transition, so we've been working on that in many areas. For the potty training, this means actually getting her into the bathroom and on the potty. If we force her, she just screams and doesn't go--until she's got her pants back on. But if we can get her there and on the potty, she will usually go right off, no problems. So we are trying to give her time to get ready for the transition, as in we are going to the potty after we put this away or right before dinner or in 2 minutes. Also, in an effort to keep up with the playful parenting, I've been physically taking her to the potty in fun ways. I ask her if she wants to be carried to the potty right side up or upside down (her answer is always upside down), or tell her she's a sack of potatoes and I need to throw her over my shoulder. This morning, she said she wanted to be carried like a giraffe, so we stuck our necks out and I walked stiff-legged like a giraffe.

On Monday, I bought her lots of new underwear. She is loving the underwear and is excited to pick out a pair each morning. She is excited to put them on and wear them to school. She is still in pullups at night, but she's okay with that and we are okay with that. Over the last 5 days, she had two accidents, both of which were yesterday evening. Poor Londo had both kids, and the Pumpkin was just being a handful. But other than that, she is doing great!

We are excited that she's growing up, that we don't have to change as many diapers and that our grocery bill is going to be reduced!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Question of the Week - Communicating with Friends

A good friend and I had an interesting discussion about communicating with friends and responsiveness. She has recently made friends with a woman who is really bad about returning calls and never answers her phone. My friend is understanding, because the woman has something like 3 jobs, a demanding husband and 2 kids. But after a while, it gets frustrating. It doesn't sound like the woman is blowing her off, because they get along great when they get together. To me, it just sounds like she is crazy busy and not good at responding/communicating.

I understand that, because I pretty much suck at being responsive in the communication department (especially in the winter). Maybe you noticed my lack of posting this past week or two, for example. With some friends, I do pretty well at keeping in touch with. With others, not so much. I am deeply fond of many people who I do not stay in touch with very well. I've been thinking it must have to do with communication styles.

So today's question of the week is:

How do you stay in touch/communicate with your friends?

Let me just say right off, I LOVE Facebook. It has enabled me to get back in touch with friends I wished I had kept up with, as well as keep up better with my good friends and family. I think why it works so well for me is that it's a very passive, very easy way to stay in touch. One click of the Like button, and my friend knows I've seen their status or picture and have enjoyed it. One sentence in a comment, and I'm interacting with my friend. My goodness, it's easy enough for even me to use regularly!

Blogs are also easy for me. I like to hear about what's going on in my friends' lives and be able to make short comments. Although there are times when I get behind on my blog reading or I'm reading but not commenting. I always catch up, even if I don't always comment.

You'd think I'd be good at emails, since I love to write. But I'm not really. I mean to be, just like I used to mean to be good about writing letters. I'm just not. And phone calls? Well it has to been easy and convienent. My friends who enjoy phone chats around 9 AM and/or 5:30 PM are the ones I talk to the most, thanks to a 30 minute plus commute and a hands-free ear piece. The people I keep in touch with best are those who read my blog and are able to chat on the phone at times convienent to me.

I don't mean to be a bad friend. I'm just... I don't know... lazy? Busy? Somewhat introverted? The friends who've been my friends for a long time are very forgiving of this character flaw of mine. They are okay with going months without hearing from me, and they don't hold it against me. I, apparently, need that kind of leeway. Though I absolutely love to get together for a lunch or a playdate and spend real time with my friends, it seems like we are all so busy these days. And it takes more initiative than I have in the winter time, so I often wait until spring and/or summer to do get togethers.

Luckily, I know this about myself, and I try very hard to account for it in my friendships, especially new ones. I've had friends invite me over and over to do things, when I constantly couldn't do it for one reason or another. I've had friends call me and leave me messages without getting return calls. But I try really hard to acknowledge this with my friends and ask them to keep inviting me places and keep calling. I try to be sure to let them know I'm not blowing them off. I just suck. It's not them, it's me.

What about you? Are you a phone chatter? Do you prefer emails? Are you just great about planning get togethers? How do you keep in touch with your friends? Do you respond right away? What kind of effort do you make to communicate?