Don’t just stand there….

We celebrate three years of homeschooling today.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the chaos, stress, and upset leading to our “we don’t really have any other choice” decision.  It was the hardest choice I ever had to make.  It has also been by far the best.

Originally published March 2013

*****

I wrote this post months ago; it’s been sitting as a draft because really, it didn’t fit with any of my usual topics.  But when it happened I wanted to make sure to write it down; to remember the moment.

Now, months later, it’s hitting me in a completely different way:

Recently I sat at our kitchen table, eating dinner with my family, when a flash of feathers caught my eye.  That in itself isn’t all that strange; I’ve very strategically positioned a bird feeder outside one of our windows so when I sit in “my spot,” I can see the birds.  It was the motion of the wings I found odd:  a frantic flutter, then stillness, to the point where I would think the bird must have flown away.  But then the frantic would begin again.

I continued to sit and eat dinner, but thoughts began to nag at me.  Maybe something’s wrong, they started.  Maybe it’s hurt.  Maybe it’s stuck.  Stuck?  The bird feeder hangs from a “feeder holder” that clips to our deck; an arched piece (that ends in the hook that holds the feeder), is attached to a straight rod, which fastens to the deck rail.  It was possible, I began to think, that maybe the bird got his foot caught between where the two pieces of metal meet and overlap.

That’s ridiculous.

Well, maybe.  But still possible.

The movement would be so still for so long that I would think it was gone, then it would rouse up again; and finally, once I finished my dinner, I joked that “I’m going out to see what on earth is going on out here.”

The bird–it was a nuthatch–was stuck, but it wasn’t his foot.  It was his head.  I wasn’t ready for the panicked feeling that welled up in me when I saw this tiny, tiny creature freeze in fear and stare at me, his neck wedged between the two pieces of metal.  (Never in a million years would I have guessed the gap was big enough to fit a bird’s neck, even one as small as this one.)  My head was spinning as I slowly approached to try to lift the little one.

Nothing prepares you for the sheer nothingness that is the weight of a bird.  I’m amazed each winter as I watch them walk on the snow; I know in my head that they are weightless and fragile, but until you pick one up, you truly can’t imagine.  He was perfectly still as I cupped my hands around his little body and slid him slowly, carefully, up and out from in between the cold of the metal.  The moment he was free, he flew away.

I went back inside ready to cry.  What if I hadn’t gone out?  What if I hadn’t seen him at all?  What if he’d been stuck there….how much longer could he have been stuck there, without permanent damage?  And then….how many times do we not act on a “hunch?”  On a thought, on a feeling, on a suspicion?  How many opportunities have been lost because we failed to do something, however small?  What permanent damage has been done because I’ve chosen to ignore the nagging voice in the back of my mind?

Just some things I’m thinking about today…

 

That last paragraph…acting on a hunch, what permanent damage has been done, failing to act, ignoring the nagging voice in my head…..It occurred to me today that all those things perfectly sum up our decision to start homeschooling.  I’m tired of just standing there.  I’m doing something.

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Dog days are here!

“Four hours till home.  Anyone want to place bets on how long it will take my husband to get a dog now that the trip is over?”  –my Facebook post, Monday, October 22nd

 

Five days.  That’s the final count:  home Monday night; dog Friday night.  She’s curled up next to me on the sofa, sacked out, as I write this.  And she’s been such a blessing.

A very brief history of where we’d come from:  one dog owned for fourteen years, another owned for twelve years, neither one of which were big fans of “those kids” once they came along nine years ago.  Bo was a mean enough dog we were genuinely concerned about how things were going to go; it turned out to be fine, but I never trusted him much.  Basie was tolerant but skittish; he’d just leave the room if a child wandered in.

So much for the idea of “a boy and his dog.”

For three days after we were home my husband and I researched dogs; we looked online at three different shelters and a rescue and compared notes about who we’d found that was interesting.  (This involved lots of “Oh, look at this one!”; and hormonal pregnant woman having to leave the room when the family would look at the homeless doggie videos.)  I was surprised–pleased, really–at how quickly some promising dogs came and went; a dog there one day might not be there the next.  But I collected a little list of names when my husband said we’d go by one of the shelters Friday night.

When we pulled up, I saw her.  I knew it was her, but I didn’t say anything to my husband; who had already assured me he’d done this before and that what we really wanted to do was walk the kennels and see who we were drawn to.  So I said nothing as we piled out of the car and took in all the incessant barking around us, and then I heard him say, “Look at that black one….” and I got to smile and know that this would be easier than I thought.

We went in, though, to ask a worker for some more information about my list of four; she was an amazing source of information and could rattle off all sorts of things about each dog:  “Alex was just adopted this morning; Carolean….you really don’t want her in a family with kids, that wouldn’t go well; Kina would be wonderful, she’d be great; Jullian, well…..”  And then I had to laugh as she went on to describe behavior that pretty much fit our old Bo to a “T.”  (At one point later, I was talking about Jullian-dog with another worker, who used the phrase, “He can be…..weird,” which made me burst out laughing.  That was the exact same phrase we used about Bo.  Often.)

“He can be so sweet and so affectionate, but there are times, if he’s cornered….he can get really aggressive….but he can truly be a really good dog….”

Yeah…I’ve done that for fourteen years, thanks.  I’m done.  Time for a friendly dog.

So we went out to collect sweet Kina and get to know her a bit, in the huge play yard/agility training course they have in one area.  Of course, for the first ten minutes, she had absolutely no interest in us, as the area had probably been marked by dozens of dogs, and there were so many things to smell.  (At one point my foster-parent-trained husband looked at me and laughed, “She has attachment issues.”)  But she finally decided that the people were more interesting than the smells, and as I watched my family play with the dog–the one I felt from the start was ours–I knew it was official.

Why would anyone get rid of such a friendly, precious dog?  It turned out their grandchildren had allergies.  Our extended family has had much discussion about who they’d get rid of….the dog or the kids.  lol  (My pharmacist husband’s comment:  “They make medicine for that.”)

So we came home with a pet.  Not a former stray, or just a dog, but someone who’s been a pet for six years and who’d been passed over time and again at the shelter (age-related concerns, I assume) but who is an unbelievably well-trained, well-behaved, sweet-tempered pet.  She loves to be loved, and will snuggle with my kids. (!!!)  It broke my heart the first few nights she was here as I realized we were having to teach my kids how to play with a dog; they’d never been able to before.  Now they can play with her and walk her and love on her and I’m able to relax a bit and not spend every waking moment saying “Careful of the dog!”

And then, that first night home, she went outside and rolled in something completely heinous.

Yep…..we’re officially dog owners again.  🙂

 

The title from this post came from the announcement my daughter wrote on our dry-erase board the night we got Kina, playing off the “Florence and the Machine” song “Dog Days are Over.”  I thought it was pretty ingenious for a seven-year-old.