(Too) Close Encounters

Recently, my family had some (mostly) unwelcome visitors to our house. It started with an unfamiliar chirp coming from the mud room. It was neither the smoke detector signaling us to change batteries nor a reminder from my washing machine to switch the load. Somehow a cicada had entered the house and was making a desperate call to try to escape. We thought that was a strange occurence; but little did we know this was only the beginning of our close encounters that night.

An hour later, we were eating dessert in the family room when something flew around the room and out again. At first I thought it was a bird; but when it came zooming back into the room at eye level, I realized it was a bat! I have not had such encounters with bats since my childhood. Even though I am a grown woman now and should be able to handle such an intrusion calmly, something triggered my inner child and sent me ducking to the floor and covering my face.http://www.clipartlord.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/bat1.png

While my husband searched for his fishing nets to chase the bat out, I remained paralyzed on the floor while visions of my own parents chasing bats came back to me. I remembered my sisters and I huddling together in the corner while my brave mom and dad tried to shoo the bat out. They would throw laundry baskets over their heads for protection and wield broomsticks to corral the bat and sweep it out of the house.

By the time my husband returned, I had thankfully regained my senses and was able to assist him by waving my net and  chasing the bat into his net so he could release it outside. Needless to say, I was relieved to return to my bowl of ice cream after that stressful flashback. Unfortunately, our close encounters of the night were not finished.

Half an hour later, when we had calmed down and were heading to bed, we let the dogs out for their final run of the night. That is when disaster struck! Ebony had a face-on encounter with a skunk! Ebony is 12 1/2 years old and she had never had such a terrible experience. She didn’t know what hit her straight in the face!

 

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Obviously, instead of going to bed, we had to deal with the situation. This time, I jumped right into action while my teenage children had the privilege of fleeing to the relative safety of their bedrooms- although the smell was so potent that it wouldn’t be long before it infiltrated the house.

If you have ever experienced such a stinky encounter, you probably know all the myths and home remedies. We tried everything: tomato juice, hydrogen peroxide mixed with baking soda, shampoo, candles, Febreze and Lysol- for about an hour. Then, exhausted, we crawled into bed after laying down extra blankets and towels so Ebony, who was so bewildered she needed to sleep with us, wouldn’t bleed the oils into our bedding.

It had been an increasingly stressful and disastrous night of (too ) close encounters. They say bad luck comes in threes, so I am hoping this means we have this one behind us.

*Note: By the time I got around to posting this story, almost two weeks have passed. There have been no more close encounters, thankfully. But Ebony still has a very strong presence when she is in the room. At least it has reached the level of tolerance. It has definitely been a demonstration of unconditional love for our pets.

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Top Reasons (Not) to Get a Dog

As I was walking out of the pool complex this afternoon, I overheard a mom talking to her child about all the reasons not to get a dog. “First of all, they are messy. They pee and poop alot. They bark and make alot of noise. And we have to walk them every day….”  I smiled to myself as I walked away. This certainly brought back memories of when my own kids tried go convince me we should get a dog.
Should I have interrupted this mom’s lecture and told her how ridiculous those excuses sound to a  child? I should know. I probably used the same rationale way back when. First of all, does she seriously think a child is going to consider cleaning up messes his or her duty? Obviously, that is more on the shoulders of the parent. Even when you think your children are old enough to assume responsibility,  don’t believe for an instant that they will do it.
What about the barking and such? Why would a  child care? As long as there is a dog to snuggle with, why does it matter if it barks at others? Again, it is up to the parent to train the dog.
Lastly, there are the economics of dog ownership: medications, check ups, food, kennels- all these add up but, again,  are not of concern to the kids so I am glad the mom did not bring those up.
I can picture this mom a year or so from now, having been unable to  convince the  children that dogs are not good pets, and being worn down by constant pleas to get a dog- feeling guilted into agreeing because the kids know how to manipulate her emotions. At the same time, I am sure she will  come to appreciate how wonderful it is to have a dog who follows her around the house, is excited when  she walks in the door, relies on her for walks or treats and gives her unconditional love. Sometimes that is just what a busy mom needs to remind her that she is the center of the world to someone, maybe just not her kids.

While composing this post, I had fun exploring old family photos of our new pets. The excitement and joy that each one brought to the family, made all the other hassles of pet ownership worth it.

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How could I say no to this face? Look how happy it made her. No more mommy guilt.

 

Welcoming a new member to the family…  familydog0951

guinea3469  Of course, I didn’t agree to get a dog for years. I thought guinea pigs would be easier to deal with (see Guinea Pig Years) .

 

 

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After a few years, one dog was no longer enough and we agreed to adopt a second one. Again, notice the smiles and happy faces.

mom3017    This is where the unconditional love part comes in , and how I envision the mom at the pool in a few years.

As a final word of advice to her, I would warn her that once you let pets into your home, you never know how many more you will get. Fortunately, by this age, my kids are fully able and willing to assume the responsibilities.

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A Mothers’ Day tribute to myself

I usually don’t have positive thoughts on Mothers’ Day- so this year I am doing something different. I am writing a tribute to myself on all the things that being a mother means to me.

* Always being there for my kids: whether it is a ride, a hug, lunch or someone to talk to, I am ready to jump into action for whatever they need.

*Unconditional love and support:  no matter what they do or say, I will always love them.

*Knowing when to give praise or express disappointment, or whether to just listen and empathize. Finding the right balance is tricky and depends on which kid and the situation. Knowing each child’s strengths, weaknesses and passions helps in these parental judgment calls.

*Being a good role model for my children: showing courtesy and politeness, responsibility, strong values and solid work ethics. By being a good citizen, I show my kids how I expect them to behave as they grow into adults. They each show these characteristics in their own ways. They may have their own beliefs and ideas, but they stick to them and work hard for them.

*Pride: like the mother lion, I can show off my cubs, even when they are grown. Their accomplishments, whether it is receiving an award or achieving a milestone, give me bragging rights to express how proud I am.

*Friend or Foe: This is the hardest part of being a mom (or dad)- how to juggle being a pal and parent at the same time. It is amazing how quickly things can get out of control and laughing can turn to yelling. It is very hard to draw the line, so I probably put myself in the “foe” category by not fully stepping into the “friend” role. Maybe friendship will happen later in life, but right now I am still the parent.

Safety Patrol: whether safety meant no running with sticks, biking with a helmet, or texting me for a ride if they were in an uncomfortable situation, I was always concerned for my children’s safety. With my daughter living the college life in Boston, I know I have lost any measure of control so I try not to think about it. At least she has the “courtesy call” down- meaning when she is travelling any great distance she will let us know when she reaches her destination. Instead, I am focusing my safety lessons on my son, who will soon qualify for his driver’s license.

*Mi Casa,es Su Casa: as a mom I always wanted my kids to feel safe and comfortable in the house. I let them freely invite friends over to hangout and kept plenty of snacks stocked for unexpected gatherings. Even as they leave the nest, I always want my kids to feel welcome to come home- hopefully not permanently, but for enough time to reinforce our love and support and keep us feeling like a family.

*Letting go: This is also part of being a parent. Realizing that I have fulfilled my duty of raising children to live independently. Hopefully they have picked up the skills through daily chores, or at least watching me do them. Thankfully, letting go happens in stages: first they take the school bus, then they learn to drive; they start with a sleepover at a friend’s’ house and then go to summer camp. By the time they are ready for college, they should have weaned themselves and feel the urge for independence. The hardest part for me is giving them that final push and encouragement to go.

However, it doesn’t matter whether they are 2 or 20 or 50, they will always be my kids and I will always have these feelings and roles as their mom. All of these emotions and traits go with the territory and make me the kind of mother that I am. Many of these were learned from my own mother (and father) and will likely be passed to the next generation. It is called family.