Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Free Will Astrology usually nails it. In my case, almost always.

And speaking of astrology, my little Gemini turns seven tomorrow. June 1. I can't believe it. Seven. Seven!

So happy birthday, baby! Happy birthday to my dumpling. My Noly Spicoli. My Vans-slip-ons-wearin', comic-book-readin', whistlin', bubble-gum-blowin', baseball-tossin'-and-catchin', swingset-jumpin', smilin', high-fivin', joke-crackin', story-writin', another-hug-givin', sharin', carin', bike ridin', eye-rollin', skateboardin', scooter-ridin', Beybladin', iPod-listenin', helpin'-mom-with-cookin'n'bakin', cherry pit-spittin' and all around scrumptious G-droppin' ham. I love you, buddy. Tons.

Thank you for being you. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of being silly, that white chocolate and the Detroit Tigers really are okay, that the only thing better than a hug is another one, that bike rides to the ice-cream truck in the park are a seasonal requirement, that it's okay to load the top of your bureau with things like shark teeth, GI Joe's and tiny plastic ninjas, that being the littlest sometimes means being the toughest (and loudest), that meals are meant to be enjoyed slowly, that when all else fails grab your glove, go outside, toss a ball for a while and you'll feel better, that little kids can make big nothin'-but-net shots, that dogs are meant to be loved despite their filth, because they love us despite ours, that gardens are best planted with the help of an extra set of (little) hands, that if you don't make silly faces then your serious face is gonna freeze like that forever, that the American flag is a cool thing, that robots and ninjas are even cooler, that camo is awesome, that beaches are fun but cities are a blast, that penguins are The Best Animal Ever, that stickers are meant to be stuck on things, that it's important to give your siblings big-big-big hugs, and that everyone says things incorrectly sometimes. Isn't that right, Yosesame Sam?

I love you, dumpling. Forever and ever.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Who Rules the Roost? Sharing Space with Bitchy Roommates

Let's get one thing straight: I love all three of my dogs. Each one of those girls holds a place deep in my heart. But despite their cute faces and pleading eyes, they can sometimes be pretty lousy roommates.

For every belly that's surrendered to a good rubbing, there are countless muddy paws on the couch, spilled water bowls, tumbleweeds of fur, and "death tails" that can clear a coffee table of all beverages in a single wag. While much of this is par for the course with dogs, some other offenses are, well, just plain offensive. Chewing, messing, and excessive barking are behaviors that must be addressed and corrected to the greatest extent possible.

And if you're, say, married, and if, say, two of your three dogs were not "yours" to begin with, and if, say, one of those dogs has a serious behavioral issue, then the situation only serves to highlight that sometimes the dog isn't the problem--the owner is.

Responsible pet ownership does not begin and end with curbing one's dog. Poop bags, vet visits, healthy food and regular exercise are all part of Dogs 101. Behavioral problems, however, require a level of proactiveness and determination that many people aren't willing to give. For example, if you have a dog that continually messes in the house on occasion despite all housebreaking efforts, a phone call to the vet is in order to determine whether the accidents are medical or behavioral in nature. Once medical problems are ruled out, then a strategy for dealing with the messes must be put into place. Such a strategy might mean to crate the dog when it is left alone. For others, it might mean that a case of separation anxiety is the problem, and dogwalkers or doggy daycare might be the solution.

Unless the problem is aggression toward humans, which is a separate topic altogether, there is most likely a solution to be had. Finding one might be a real exercise in trial and error, but it is up to pet owners to realize when they need to step up their efforts to make the situation better for all. And if you're married or otherwise committed, the approach has to be a joint effort. Trust me--the dog will know if it isn't.

And why shouldn't it be a joint effort? Whose house is it anyway? While my husband and I happily share the couch with our pooches and get pushed to the sides of the bed by the dogs each night, it's still our house. We lay down the rules. And as a parent I can speak the truth: As with children, if the dogs aren't follwing the house rules, it's because we're letting them get away with it.

With that, I present you Moira's 13 Rules for Living with Bitches*:

1. Make a decision and stick with it regarding the furniture: They're either allowed on it or not. A dog who is allowed on the couch but not the bed is only going to be confused and set up to fail.

2. Speaking of the couch, invest in one with slipcovers or made from microfabric. This will make for easier cleaning.
3. Product endorsement #1: Swiffers pick up lots of hair. They don't do such a great job with crumbs, but that's what the dogs are for.
4. Product endorsement #2: Scotch Fur Fighters are excellent at removing hair from furniture.
5. Product endorsement #3: Get yourself a Bissell Little Green ProHeat for removing any of the inevitable stains and odors that come with sharing space with dogs.
6. Say No as needed, and say it with conviction.
7. Praise is good! Treats and belly rubs go a long way in rewarding good behavior.
8. Be consistent: Don't let Fluffy get away with begging at the table one night and then reprimand her for it the next. This rule can be tough, but it's also the most important in letting the dog know where she stands.
9. Keep your schedule as regular as possible. Your schedule is the dog's schedule, too. Regular meal and exercise times help a dog feel secure, and that feeling of security means that behavioral issues will be kept to a minimum (for most dogs, anyway).
10. If your dog is a digger, give her a designated digging spot in the yard. That will usually keep her from digging up other parts of your lawn or garden.

11. Remember that your dog is an animal, not a child. There is no reasoning to be had, no matter how smart they are.
12. Also remember that you committed to giving your dog a good life. It's up to you to address any problems to the best of your ability so that both of you can continue to enjoy life together. (The good times usually outnumber the bad anyway, right?)

13. Dress up your dog in humiliating costumes once in a while. It will make you feel better about some of the BS she pulls. Payback can be fun--for you.

*I'm not a vet, and I don't pretend to be. None of my suggestions should be used to diagnose or treat any pet's illness. Please consult a vet for that. And this is by no means a comprehensive list--there are many more suggestions to be had for sharing space with dogs. But I can offer you about 20 years of dog ownership experience, and I can confidently say it almost always comes down to one universal truth: Like some people, dogs will try to get away with something if they think they can.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My New Collection: Rainwater

Our foray into greener gardening has graduated to the level of rain barrels. While there are many websites that offer tips on building rain barrels, we purchased ours as a kit for $50 through a local high school whose ecology class built several to sell in the spirit of water preservation awareness.

The barrel arrived unassembled, in its bright blue glory, with the parts and instructions inside.

The instructions offered us two options: 1) Assemble it with the lid, and hook up the drainpipe to a downspout, or; 2) Omit the lid, and leave the barrel wide open in an area where roof runoff is strong. We chose the first option, although we went with the latter one night solely out of necessity, since we hadn't yet fully assembled our kit, and we were due for rain. The barrel was an impressive 1/3 full after just that night. Still, to prevent accidental drowning of animals and small children, we are more comfortable with the lid securely clamped to the barrel.

The lid aside, the biggest decision was where to put the barrel. Given its color, it seemed most at home next to our city-issued bright blue garbage can and recycling bins. While some rain barrels are landscape accents or are designed to camoflauge within gardens, there is no hiding our Big Blue baby. I was grateful to have a designated spot for all that cobalt plastic.

Assembly was super-easy--I let my husband do it! But even he conceded that the instructions were pretty fool-proof. He slipped the hose connector and run-off spout into their assigned, pre-cut holes. Then he attached the drainpipe to the lid, and then he fit the other end of the drainpipe to our downspout after cutting off about seven feet of the leader. And viola! We were ready to harvest some rain.

Since assembling it, we've have four days of steady rain, and our barrel is an easy 2/3 full. Once we have a dry spell, I'll be able to hook up our hose to the barrel's spigot and water my garden with the rain we've collected. (Note: Harvested water should only be used for watering non-edible plants, never drinking or bathing. There is some question as to the safety of watering food plants with runoff from asphalt roofs.) Not only is this ecologically sound, but it's extremely practical. Our only hose spigot is located on the side of the house, far away from the back yard and most of our gardens. We had prepared to drill into the foundation for a new spigot, but Big Blue by the back door will do the job instead.


Not a Rose by Another Name

Peonies are like orchids and roses: People usually love them or are irritated by them. (Not sure anyone actually "hates" a flower, so...). I LOVE peonies. And orchids. And roses. I also love something as simple as shasta daisies or as industrious as pest-deterrent marigolds, which stand sentry by my tomato plants. The simplistic shade-loving perennial groundcovers such lilies of the valley and myrtle, both transplanted from my grandmother's garden, give me hope each Spring as they brighten the darker corners of my yard.

But peonies! Oh! I remember the moment I fell in love with them: It was late Spring 2004, and I had just arrived home from five long days in the hospital with my newborn baby boy, my second and my last. After rising from the couch in between nursing--and dozing, I found a vase of blush pink peonies on my front porch, stealthily left there by a good friend. I plunked them down in a spot where I could admire them during marathon feeding sessions, and I have loved them ever since. They remind me of those sweet first days with my baby boy.

Four years later, as I opened my heart to a new marriage and a new path, it was peonies that called me home. As Ian and I toured a house for sale, I noticed bright pink peony blooms peeking from the side of the garage. I took it as a good sign. Two months later we closed on the house, and I've since relocated that plant to a more prominent spot in the yard.

So it is with delight that I share this posting from Apartment Therapy. The posting's final paragraph says it all. Love them or not, the slow unfurl of a peony's bloom is dazzling. I will take one peony over a rose garden any day.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mirror, Mirror

Are you aware of Operation Beautiful?

I love it. Genius.

And I think I'm overdue for a night on the couch with some popcorn and Funny Face.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Whatever Gets You Through It

It's pretty much the worst allergy season on record. And our medicine cabinet proves it.

Sean's asthma, which he appeared to have outgrown some time ago, made a roaring comeback last week when the pollen counts reached their peak. His seasonal allergies were already in rough shape, and while Allegra was helping (Claritin did nothing for him), it wasn't enough. He quickly progressed from needing a couple of Albuterol puffs every four hours to requiring a treatment every two hours.

Truth be told, his asthma had been mananged until Tuesday night, when he endured an evening at the pollen-filled field for his baseball game. He insisted on playing, despite weeping eyes and a tight chest. He even made a couple of great plays in the outfield. His coach later remarked that "the kid is all heart. He's not a big kid. But he loves the game." That's my boy.

Sean slept okay that night, and he went off to school in better shape the following day. I had hoped he was through the worst of it, thinking maybe the pollen at the field had exacerbated his suffering. But that day at school he represented his class off-site at the New Haven city-wide science fair. He took his inhaler before the fair on Yale campus. Just an hour or so later, eyes again weeping and chest again tightening, he required his inhaler once more. His teachers were concerned, but he insisted he was fine and proceeded to represent his class to a second-place win for their category. That's my boy.

He returned to school and had his inhaler a third time in four hours. And then we were immediately on our way to the doctor.

For the first time in his life, he was nebulized. He was put on a steroidal inhaler through the beginning of summer, as well as his Albuterol as needed, twice daily Allegra, prescription antihistamine eyedrops, and five days of prednisone.

He was in such rough shape he wasn't allowed to go to school on Thursday--a major bust for a kid with perfect attendance. He wasn't even allowed to ride his bike or play baseball, since he was experiencing (again, for the first time in his life) exercise-induced asthma. Even his participation in the upcoming soap box derby and karate tournament over the weekend was in question.

And then the prednisone kicked in. Within 12 hours he was a different kid. He was himself, sort of. As my ex-husband put it after seeing him, "The highs are really high and the lows are really low on that drug." No doubt. Although he was not allowed to go to school or ride his bike on Thursday, he was doing cartwheels in the living room while I was on a conference call. Saturday, he ate a hot dog after the soap box derby and then a hamburger an hour later at his brother's baseball game.

And he wept. Oh, the weepiness! Sean cried -- sobbed -- over many things, in between cartwheels and fistfulls of BBQ Pringles. But his eyes were clear, his lungs were clear, and his oxygen levels were back up to 100%, so it was worth the temporary trade-off. It's such a bad season for pollen. Even Nolan, who has no seasonal allergies (or food allergies, for that matter), was put on a specific inhaler regimen because the pollen has aggravated his asthma in recent days. We don't want him to get to the point of requiring all the meds that Sean has needed just to get things under control.

Fortunately, Sean's last dose of prednisone was yesterday. I'm hoping he'll maintain his gains with the other meds, as well as with the forecasted wet week ahead of us. He's back to riding his bike. He's not struggling to breathe. He was jumping around the living room to the Clash's "1977" yesterday afternoon. And for the first time in a long time, no one in our house is complaining about the rain.