Dealing with “stuff”

I realize that it’s been over a month since I’ve written anything.  Because I’ve been dealing with “stuff.”  Literally.  It’s everywhere.

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She seems perfectly harmless, right?

Let’s start with dog “stuff:”  no, not that kind of dog stuff.  I’m thinking of the afternoon I got back from picking up the kids from school and discovered that, in the twenty minutes I’d been gone, the dog had ripped the under-the-kitchen-sink cabinet door off its hinges and gotten into a full bag of trash.  That’s a full bag of trash, all over the kitchen floor, with a cabinet door laying on top of the mess like a fancy embellishment.  I tend to operate under the theory of “if you’re going to look back on this and laugh, you might as well laugh now,” but I’m pregnant and hormonal and I didn’t laugh.  I cried.  (Bending over to clean up an entire bag of trash is becoming not only uncomfortable but downright impractical.  Thank goodness for helpful children.)  That story, though, was only a lead-in for more “stuff.”  Thankfully, the rest of the stuff isn’t as nasty as a full bag of trash.

Baby “stuff:”  We’ve been extraordinarily blessed with a huge amount of things for the baby.  We’ve gone from “we have a nine- and a seven-year-old–we have nothing for a baby” to “I think all we have to buy now is a baby monitor.”  It’s been absolutely unbelievable, and I’m so grateful.  It’s also been all over the house, because, since we’ve never had babies in this house, I have no idea where to put any of it.  The big stuff, in a way, is easier to handle than the little things: while loading a swing and a playpen in the car I was actively thinking about where to unload them when we got home.  It’s the bags of things like baby bottles and sippy cups that are wearing me down; I’m going to have to clean out an entire kitchen cabinet to fit all this stuff.

So yes, baby “stuff:”  a laundry basket FULL of baby toys sat in our garage until I got tired of tripping over it (our garage is not THAT big), and then I brought it in and it sat on our kitchen counter.  For days.  Along with baby clothes passed on from my sister, which sat piled up on top of the dryer.  Also for days. Which then met with….

Car “stuff:”  We got a new car!  (Well, a new-to-us car.)  We found a great deal on my “I’ve wanted one for six years” seven-seater CX-9, which then leads to cleaning out your old car so you can trade it in.  Which means another bag of “stuff” culled from my old car, sitting on the kitchen counter.  Next to the laundry basket of baby toys.  (Feeling crowded yet?)

I finally, finally went through the bags and bins (and yes, an especially supportive friend came over and helped, because there comes a point where you don’t have the wherewithal to do it alone) and had a clean counter for a matter of days.  That’s about the time where our decision to homeschool one of our kiddos kicked in, and we ended up with…..

Homeschooling “stuff:”  math manipulatives and library books all over said counter.  (Again….where am I going to put all this stuff???)

This doesn’t count all the normal “stuff” of everyday life; school papers and newspapers and toys and shoes and books.  (I joked with my husband that when my son leaves stuff laying around, it’s in a big pile on the side table in the kitchen.  When my daughter leaves stuff laying around, she seems to dribble it everywhere.) Now, with two winter storms in less than a week, we also have snow-related “stuff:”  that giant pile of wet laundry and shoes that ends up next to the back door. (One point for me:  yesterday I had everyone just throw it all in the washer.  Immediately.)

To top it off, throughout the background of all this physical “stuff,” I’ve got ongoing mental “stuff.”  The phone call from the doctor’s office:  Your glucose test came back fine, but you’re anemic.  The phone call from the principal:  About your son….   The announcement from my husband:  You know those work from home positions?  I scored one.  (YAY!!  But….where will all THAT “stuff” go?!?)  All the “stuff” that rolls around in your head, 24/7, and makes you want to crawl back under the covers until it just goes away.  (Maybe that’s the anemia talking.  Or maybe it’s just that it’s February.)

So, bit by bit, we’re piecing things together over here.  Very slowly, things are finding homes.  I’ve had a clean counter for, I think, three days now….maybe I’m on a roll.  Hopefully, little by little, we’ll get new things put away in their new homes and we’ll start in on new routines and maybe I’ll even be able to write about it a little more.  Maybe, hopefully, in a more positive, not-so-whiny way.  Thanks for letting me vent.

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In God We Trust

Funny, isn’t it, that that’s what’s written on our money?  It’s like someone knew we’d be needing the reminder.

“Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”  (Proverbs 11:28)

Let me vent for a moment and I promise I’ll circle back to the important point.

Months ago, I realized that in preparation for our Disney trip I should probably be ramping up our savings; I didn’t want to drain the entire account (admittedly unlikely, but there’s a lot of uncertainty in preparing for a trip that big).  So I did my best to start funneling a little extra each paycheck into our savings account.

That’s when it started.

It began very slowly; so slowly I didn’t even notice for a bit.  But the longer time went on, the more I began to see a pattern:  things were going wrong.  Often.  At an increasing rate.  The phrase “that’s what savings is for” was being thrown around more and more; so much so that I began to tack on an addendum:  “that’s what savings is for….but what happens when it’s all gone?”  The fact that we would be adding a baby into the mix in just a few months didn’t help my attitude one bit; nor did the timing of Christmas shopping.

Our list:

6/15  Husband’s pharmacy license renewed (thankfully, reimbursed)

7/11  Sprinkler repair

7/30  Tax oops (yeah….I don’t wanna talk about it)

9/9  Car battery (mine)

9/12  Bo…last vet visit

9/19  Brake work  (mine)

10/4  Tire  (mine…wow….it sounds like I drive a beater)

10/11 TRIP!!  (at least this was planned for)

10/26  New dog:  Kina!

11/1  Meds for Kina

11/12 Garage door repair

11/16  Kina disaster

11/20  Kina final lab work

12/4  Car repair (husband’s)

12/10  Furnace repair (to get us through the holidays)

1/3  New furnace install

1/18?  Impending new tire (Mine.  Wow….maybe I DO drive a beater!)

Some stuff on that list was known; the trip was a planned expense.  The dog purchase….an arguable expense, but this family doesn’t stay dog-free for long.  Everything else was a nasty surprise, and each time I’d find myself getting more and more worked up about it.  And each time, I could sense God prodding me:  Who are you trusting in?

It’s easy to sit back and blab about how much I trust in God when everything’s coming up roses.  It’s truly hard for me to remember what it was like, sixteen years ago, when we were first married and flat broke and barely making it.  There’s a lot of trust when you’re barely making it.  Now “we’re doing fine”–that seems to be our phrase of choice; not rich, but far, far away from “scraping by.”

That list of problems has forced me back to trust; to evaluate who I’m truly trusting in and whether that trust holds even as bank accounts weaken.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?”  (Psalm 56:3-4)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  (Proberbs 3:5)

No, we don’t have mice….

I’ve read two different posts in the past few months about people forced to clean out, declutter, and reorganize due to mice.  (Read them here and here.)  While we have done our time with mice, our current “reorganization situation” involves a slightly different problem.  It involves a dog who’s learned how to open the pantry.

When we got Kina, I was thrilled that she was smart, but not too smart.  We’d had fourteen years with a dog who was too smart, and frankly, it’s exhausting.  Kina seemed to be just the right mix of friendly and bright; well-behaved and smart enough to train, but not so smart that she was out-smarting the training.

Then came the night we came home from church to discover….what was that on the living room floor?  I truly didn’t know until I got right up on it:  a bag of coconut, pulled from my basket of ingredients for making various granola bar goodies.  She clearly didn’t care for it, but that didn’t change the face that she’d opened the pantry to get it.

Once she’d learned she could do it, it was all over.  Every time I’d come home from dropping the kids off at school, I’d find something else.  The tub of oatmeal.  The container of flax seeds.  The box of cinnamon squares cereal.  It was funny and frustrating all at the same time.  How on earth was I going to completely reorganize the pantry to keep everything out of her reach?  I truly couldn’t think of how to rearrange things to where nothing would be touchable; it’s not that big of a pantry.  She was even nudging the canned food off the shelves, which obviously didn’t do much but dent the cans, but still…..

Then one Thursday morning my mom and I returned to the house after running errands to discover a box of raisin bran completely obliterated.  She ate the cardboard, too, she’d liked it so much.  For those who don’t know, raisins can be toxic to dogs, and that is how we ended up at the doggie ER (yes, there really are such things), essentially having her stomach pumped.  (“We’ll give her a shot to make her throw up, and once her stomach is empty, we’ll give her another shot to calm it back down; then we’ll feed her charcoal to keep any of the toxins from being absorbed…..”)

As my husband put it, “the dog just ate and barfed our entire Christmas budget.”

After I left her at the emergency clinic, I drove to Home Depot and got magnet closures for the pantry.  Forget cleaning and reorganizing.  We just need the stupid thing to stay closed.

 

Update:  Yes, true to her cast-iron-stomach Lab roots, the dog is totally fine.  My favorite part of the story involved a trip to our regular vet for the final blood work to check on her kidney functions.  When the vet tech got her to the back, the phone rang; so she put her in a room and closed the door so she could take the call.  The dog–yep–opened the door and came running back out to me in the lobby, leash dangling behind her, and threw her front paws in my lap:  “Quick, Mom!  Now’s our chance to make a break for it!!”

Yeah.  “Not too smart” my eye….

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.

 

And then there were none….

The house is officially empty.

I wrote months ago about the loss of our sweet teddy bear of a Bernese Mountain dog, and now our crazy Australian Shepherd is gone, too.  Losing two dogs in less than nine months is not an experience I wish for anyone.  While it was hard to lose one, it’s much, much more noticable to have lost both.

I still listen for the jingle of tags everytime I come home.

I still check to see where he’s laying, as I’m carrying baskets full of laundry to and fro.

I still come downstairs in the morning ready to let a dog out.

I still anticipate barking when the doorbell rings.

I still–embarrassingly–have a bowl of dog water sitting in the corner of the kitchen.

I’m trying to focus on the positive…the freedom of not having an animal to board let our family go out of town last weekend, last-minute.

I can sleep in a little on Saturdays, not worrying about the dog needing to go out.

I can vacuum, and the floor won’t be covered in dog fur less than twenty-four hours later.

I can let people in without a “just a minute, I have to put the dog out,” everytime someone comes over (he wasn’t a fan of strangers).

I know he was sick, and I know it was time, but I’ll miss the knowing smiles from the vet’s office every time we’d bring him in:  “Oh, yes…we remember Bo.”  (Translated:  The only dog to bite the vet through a muzzle.)  I’ll miss him “herding” the kids to bed every night; he took his job very seriously.  I’ll miss him curled up next to me on the sofa, his head in my lap.  I’ll miss his “wild man” craziness after his dinner every night.  I can’t imagine a more adventurous fourteen years with a dog….I know, without a doubt, we will never find a dog again with that much personality.  (Perhaps that’s for the best.  That much personality can be exhausting.)

We won’t be a dog-free home for long.  I made a comment about maybe waiting untill after the New Year before bringing one home, and my husband made it pretty clear that was not his plan.  Until then, I’m home in a very quiet house, without my shadow of a shepherd guiding me through my day.