Sunday, March 28, 2010

Off the leash

Today, when I drove to the grocery store, something caught my eye. A dog kept jumping up on its owner (or friend??). The woman grabbed hold of the dog by the neck, held him down and reprimanded the dog while holding a finger up right in front of him. (I don't know if the dog is male or female so I'm just going to assume it was a he.)

If that was not enough to shock me, something else happened. I watched as the woman unhooked the leash from the dog's collar and let the dog run loose.

Mind you, this was in a parking lot of the grocery store.

I watched the dog take off across the parking lot, grateful there were no cars there to hit it but still irritated that this woman let loose the dog in a place where the dog could get hurt if not on a leash. What if a car had been there? What if that dog had jumped up on a child and ended up hurting the child??

This reminded me of the time I was driving on West 7th and I had to slam on the brakes when a dog came barreling across the road. The dog's owner (I presume) was wearing skates and allowing the dog to just lead him right into the middle of oncoming traffic on a busy street. I know I never would have forgiven myself if I had accidentally struck the dog. I have already hit one animal by accident (and, unfortunately, the poor kitty I rushed to the vet had to be put to sleep because her back broke in the accident). I did NOT want to be responsible for striking another animal with my car.

And I have to wonder here: Who is at fault? Is it the owner being so irresponsible? Or is it the driver, not watching out for the unexpected?

Despite whose fault it might be, the fact remains that these two people were NOT being very responsible with the animals they were in charge of. That woman should not have let the dog off the leash to run wild. Besides, I think there is some law against having an unleashed animal in public. And that man should not have allowed his dog to run into a busy street. These kinds of things could result in a tragedy for the animal, the owner and the driver with the misfortune of striking the animal by accident then living with the grief of having accidentally taken an animal's life.

If you take your dog out and about, be responsible. Put your dogs on a leash and keep them on a leash. Don't let your dog go charging through traffic; maintain control.

There's nothing wrong with taking your dog -- or cat, hamster, whatever -- out and about in your area. What is wrong is not caring for them or being responsible with them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Please, please, play with your toys!

Every time I see a guy go nuts over a car or a fancy-antsy gun, I can only roll my eyes, shake my head and mumble, "Men and their toys." I think the appreciation for "toys" comes a lot later in life for the males of the human race. As a toddler, my daughter played with her toys to her heart's content. The same cannot be said of her 2-year-old brother.

My son has lots of toys, particularly toy cars since he is so fond of cars. He also has a toy tool set, stuffed animals, toy bowling game and lots of baby-friendly blocks. Yet it seems that all of these sources of fun and excitement are lost on him whenever he has the chance to play with them.

Actually, he'd rather "play" with things that are NOT toys. Say, the remote control for the TV set. The swarm of cords and cables in the desk drawer. And, unfortunately, the various chemicals and cleaning agents that are kept underneath the kitchen sink.

I can't even begin to count the many times I've had to explain to the baby that these "grown up things" are not toys. I might as well be speaking in a foreign language to him every time I say something like "we don't play with the toothbrush" or "the drill is NOT a toy!"

Having access to his toys is not a problem. I actually cornered off an area of the living room for his "play area," where the bulk of his toys are kept ready for him to grab and use. They have been sitting there for days -- neglected, forgotten and unloved. Once in a great while, he might grab his toy saw and start using it on the desk. Or maybe some of the time, he'll take a toy duck he has by the cord and pull it around the room. (This toy is actually a hand-me-down from his older sister.) But for the most part, he prefers to play with other things. Like his dad's pocket watch. The giant paper shredder by the desk. The vacuum cleaner which we usually keep in the hall closet but he somehow always manages to get out of there to play with. And, of course, the trusted telephone we usually keep high on a shelf. (Never mind his toy phone. It's not as cool as the real thing!)

It has gotten to the point where, when a birthday or Christmas comes up, I'll tell family member PLEASE do not send the baby anymore toys. He has enough toys that are, alas, most often ignored. I doubt holding off on buying him more toys will get him to appreciate the toys he does have because first he has to notice that they even exist. So while I'm trying to cut down on the army of toys both kids have, I am still trying to encourage my toddler to take notice of these fun things he has to enjoy and learn from before he is too old for them. Maybe that's my attempt to tell myself money was not wasted on toys a child didn't even want. Or maybe that is just me hoping he will distract himself with his real toys long enough for me to grab his favorite non-toys and hide them under lock and key.

I could use the same lecture I have at the ready anytime my kids refuse to eat their food: There are children in this world who can't have as much stuff as you do. And it's true. I know there are children who don't have as many toys as each of my children do, just as there are children who are not fortunate to have as much clothes as they do or as much food to eat as they do. In this case, however, we're talking about a child who is 2 and sees climbing the furniture to be much more funner than stacking blocks. Maybe later on he'll appreciate his "toys." Quite likely when he's a teenager with a cell phone and VERY likely when he's a grown man with his own car to drive. For now, the toys he has remain items of occasional diversion, nothing more.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Compromised cleaning

Some time back, we set up a chore chart for Jennifer. This is just one way we are trying to teach her to be responsible. If she earns 5 stars in one week, she gets her regular allowance. If she gets more than 5 stars, she gets a bonus. Sometimes she stuck to the chore chart, sometimes not. She has learned the consequences of not fulfilling her duties and is working towards consistently getting her chores done every week.

She is usually paid her allowance every Friday but still has to do chores on Saturday, just not as many of them. On Sundays, she doesn't have to do chores. It's her day "off" just like Saturday is mine.

This is something I decided to take advantage of recently. Jennifer DOES do a good job of cleaning her room, but she's just not as thorough as I am. Also, she does not make her bed as expertly as I do. (This has been an exercise in patience for me. I just take a deep breath and remind myself she is doing the best she can! The more often she makes her bed, the better at it she will be.) So, I take Sunday and use that as a day to do a full-scale cleaning job in her bedroom. This includes organizing and sorting.

So that's what I did yesterday. It took me hours but I got the whole bedroom cleaned from top to bottom. I threw out a lot of trash and broken toys, organized her desk drawers, found an old sippy cup under her dresser (with VERY old milk in it -- ew!) and pulled out what furniture I could move to vacuum under and behind it. There was a ginormous mess under the baby's crib and I was sure to put her musical instruments in a safe place where they would not get damaged. I also cleaned out around her bed and fixed up all of her books to where they were all neat and tidy.

I was satisfied with this job and so was she. She was so grateful that she told me she appreciates all of the hard work that I do. She kept thanking me and telling me how much she loved it.

And today, she kept her part of the deal. She cleaned her room herself. She also did extra things earning her bonus points on the chart, like helping me clean the house and helping watch her little brother. She really went the extra mile today. I was proud of her. She even did her homework without me constantly reminding her about it and read a bedtime story to her brother before climbing into bed.

I think this situation will work out better for both of us. Even if she does not do an A+ job cleaning her room during the week, I take comfort in knowing that at least I can tackle anything else on Sundays. She does the best she can and that's what matters.

Also, something off-topic: Jennifer was on the news today! They had a team from a wildlife sanctuary visiting the school with a cheetah and we watched as it showed her commenting that she likes cheetahs because they're really fast. She did so well and she looked REALLY good on TV. Yay, Jen! She was so excited and we were all really happy for her. They ran that clip three times today and I watched it every time. I hope we'll get a copy from the news team.

Monday, March 08, 2010

It's not easy being tall

This morning, as I dropped Jennifer off for school, she shared with me a problem she's been having with other children. Apparently, she has been getting a lot of teasing because she is tall. (This is one reason why I put her in basketball. Not because I'm living vicariously through her, as some family members have implied!) I was troubled that she's been teased about this but not surprised the kids at school have found something else to get at her with. If they're not teasing her because of how her mom looks then they're teasing her about how much food is in her lunch box.

I told her not to let this bother her. Just ignore it. Kids are ALWAYS going to find something to tease each other about and if she lets them know that this upsets her, they will only keep doing it.

She said that another girl in her class is taller than she is and she didn't understand why this girl was not being teased for being tall. I started to wonder if kids were teasing her about it because they KNOW she's sensitive. I once again told her that she should not let it bother her. The world is full of tall people but short people, too. And fat people and skinny people. If we were all the same height and had the same kind of figure, the world would be pretty boring.

"Besides," I added. "Some pretty famous people are tall. You should be proud of that."

I tried to race through my memory and come up with the name of famous tall people but all I could think of was Magic Johnson. (Me and my basketball fixation.)

I asked her if she had good friends in her class and she gave me three names. I said good, stick with those friends. Don't pay any mind to the kids teasing, because her friends will stand up for her and support her.

I also explained to her that even though she is tall, that's not what's important. The important thing is that she is a wonderful person. Her height should not define her; her personality and talents are more important. It's possible the kids tease her about her height because she is so smart. I started to wonder if those kids teasing her could read a book as fast as she can or do so well on their schoolwork as she does. Or draw some amazing art or shoot several baskets in a basketball game. And I'd also like to see those same kids write as good of a story as she can! "I for one think you're pretty spectacular," I said.

She smiled and it was like he weight of the world lifted off of her. "Thanks, Mom," she said.

What's interesting is that both of my kids are tall for their age. I am 5'7 1/2" and her dad is 5'8". Our children are tall, and both were born early. (I wonder if that's a connection??)

After I got home, I started to wonder what I could do to make Jennifer feel better about being tall. I could tell her things like "you'll never have to worry about seeing over someone's head in a crowd" and "you'll be able to reach for things that shorter people can't reach." But I wonder if there's something more I could do for her. Maybe find a book for her to read that would help her feel better about being tall. Or I could ask one of my siblings for input on this. Both of my brothers are tall, even taller than my dad, and I have nephews who are pretty tall, as well.

I did some checking on the Internet and came up with these links:

Famous tall people

Famous Tall Ladies

Tallest by profession

Hey! Our First Lady is a tall person! Jen is a supporter of Obama, so maybe if I told her that his wife is also tall, maybe she won't feel so bad.

As I often remind Jennifer, things could be worse. She thinks she is not normal because she's tall. I reminded her she is as normal as they come; her height has nothing to do with it. Things could be worse. She could be worse. She could have some kind of...mental problem. Or she could've been born with no arms or legs. Or five arms and three legs! Just because she's tall, it doesn't mean she's not normal. She is a perfectly normal kid! She's just tall. That's all.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Being grateful

I am currently reading the book Awakening Joy by James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander, which I will be posting a review of soon. In a recent chapter, the author shared how his wife has a daily ritual. At day's end, she and a friend e-mail each other 5 things that they are grateful for from their day. Even if they had a particularly bad day, and even when life throws a curve ball (as it did for this woman's friend, who was later diagnosed with breast cancer), they kept up this ritual, still finding five things they were grateful for.

I think this is a great idea! I am always one to try to get something good out of something bad. To still try and see something positive. And to write down 5 things we are grateful for, every day, is a great way to help us stay positive despite the troubles in life and try to stay optimistic.

And so, I am going to list 5 things I am grateful for from today here on my blog. I just might start doing this offline.

1. I am grateful my hip pain was not bad this morning, especially since I knocked over a bag of apples at the grocery store and had to keep bending over to pick all those apples up. (Oops.) I am sooo glad I didn't have to deal with that pain this morning!

2. I am most definitely grateful for my dog, Chewbacca ("Chewie"). It was his 16th birthday today. That's pretty old! I was scared he wouldn't make it to his birthday. But he seems to be so strong and so vibrant. I know there are some people whose dogs are no longer here to celebrate their birthdays. And I felt sad for them. So I was especially grateful that my dog got to have another birthday, even if it ends up being his last.

3. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to take a nap today. Thank you, God. I am still sleeping just fine at night now -- no insomnia or constantly waking up through the night -- but unfortunately just not getting enough of that sleep. So busy.

4. I am grateful for friendly people. Even if some people I know are not my friends, just a person I see at the store or something, I am grateful when they act friendly and kind.

5. I am grateful that I was able to buy such a pretty journal today and that it was not expensive (under $10). I look forward to writing in it and keeping a journal. I am horrible at keeping a daily log (as you can tell by looking at the frequency I post on my blogs!) but I will try to write in that journal whenever possible. It will be nice to keep a journal again. I haven't journalled for a long time and I don't think you are ever too old to keep a journal. If nothing else, it is something to leave behind for my children. I am grateful for that, too.