Monday, June 15, 2009

Confession of a Demented Mawmaw

Last Friday afternoon, on the way home from an art show that featured my 6yr old grandson's work from a one week art class (that's a mud bug above), he and I decided to stop by Dollar General. The goal was to get some chew toys for Oliver, and some summer yard toys for the kids.

Somehow, apparently during one of my weaker moments, Garrett talked me into getting a battery operated, noise making, plastic gun. At $2.00, it was to be a treat following a good morning. We had been through this before, buying potential "weapons" (guns, golf clubs, etc.), always with bad consequences, but I hoped that he (and I) had learned from our past experiences. I would have preferred to get two guns, so that there'd be one for both grandsons (who fight incessantly over everything), or four so that each of them and two neighbor kids could have one, but there was only the one.

Of course, the rule was that it would not be used in the house to drive Mawmaw crazy, and no fighting over it. And, if Conner, the 3yr old, was here, the gun had to be put away to prevent the sure to follow fight and someone getting hurt. (Ok, don't laugh so loud. It's rude and insensitive. One can always at least try to make rules, no matter how ludicrous.)

We had several slight disagreements over the gun that afternoon and evening (he spends the night here by himself on Friday nights). He wanted to take the gun home with him the next day, even though we have a firm and fast rule that the toys I buy for here stay here. (Again, please keep the laughter under control. If I let him take them all home, I'd have to keep buying toys to entertain them). Also, he and his brother were going to spend Saturday night with their two cousins, so what he really wanted to do was take the gun there and have bragging rights. I asked him if he seriously thought I would let him take a gun, albeit a fake plastic one, into a home with three other boys. Four boys and one gun, seriously?

Saturday morning started out so well. We slept late, had a good breakfast early on so he didn't have a meltdown, etc. I wasn't feeling well (I'm having trouble with my thyroiditis again), so I said I would be glad to go outside with him, but that I just flat out didn't have the energy to run around with him. He wanted to play guns, him with the plastic noise making one and me with a plain old water gun. I said that was fine, but there would be no me running around, and I had to get dressed first.

At which point he started shooting me with the battery operated, noise making, plastic gun. That sounded like a high-pitched jack hammer. A real one. Did I mention that I already also had a headache, and my bad neck was hurting, and I was feeling really really grouchy?

I asked and then warned him to stop. He didn't. I grabbed for the gun and said that I was putting it up until we were outside. He said no I wasn't. I grabbed for the gun again and told him that if he didn't give it to me I was going to put it in the plastic recycleables. He said no I wasn't. He continued to shoot me with the battery operated, noise making, plastic gun that sounded like a jack hammer. (Let me interject here and tell you that this was not just a typical little boy having fun thing going on. This was a little boy purposely defying and being rude to an adult). I grabbed for it again, and he jumped onto and over the bed. I jumped onto and over the bed as well, and grabbed for and reached the gun.

I stomped to the kitchen, Garrett in hot pursuit, thinking that I was going to put the gun in the recyleables and he'd retrieve it, or that I would put it on top of the refrigerator and give it back to him later.

You should have seen his face when I took the hammer out of the drawer, put the gun on the floor, and smashed it.

He knelt on the floor, sobbing and begging me to stop, gathered the pieces and said something like "ha ha, look at this, there are enough pieces to glue back together, and the battery part is still intact!" I mean, really, you've seen that face before, right? At which point I said something like "Really? Let me see?", and took out the hammer and smashed it again.

Ok, no stone throwing, please. I can hear you thinking "so...who's throwing the tantrum here? ", and "you should have tried this or that instead of resorting to violence".

I should have felt ashamed at that moment, but instead I walked to the back of the house (shaking a little bit) and proceded to get dressed, leaving my husband to pick up the pieces of both the gun and the sobbing boy with the demented Mawmaw.

(You may also be asking, and rightly so, where Pawpaw was during this confrontation. The answer would be ... sitting in the living room, reading the paper, listening to it all and calmly saying things like "come on, Garrett, don't make Mawmaw mad, you know how she gets", and "Garrett, give Mawmaw the gun so she'll quit yelling". Call me crazy, but don't you think he could have just reached out and grabbed the gun himself?)

As always happens in the aftermath of these confrontations with this high strung but sharp as a tack and precious boy (aka Drama King), I did eventually begin to feel ashamed of myself for throwing such a tantrum ... what kind of example of self control, or lack of, was that for a child? Is this really that different than the lady who kicked her kids out of the car for fighting and then driving off without them? Would he forever be plagued by nightmares of me standing above him with a hammer in my hand?

Garrett and Pawpaw left shortly after this, but, before leaving, Garrett hugged me and said that he loved me, and I told him the same. Then later that evening I went to his house for a party, and he ran out to greet me with hugs and laughter and a request to play badmitten with him, just as if nothing had ever happened. And hugged me goodbye that night and said he loved me.

Can you say "whew!" The worse case scenerio in my head is always that he'll hate me or never want to willingly hang out with me again. But I think this little boy, who I love so much it hurts, and who is a huge part of my life, may also have been a little ashamed of himself, knew that he had screwed up and had pushed me too far. And perhaps his worse case scenerio in his head is that I'll hate him and never want to be with him again?

Maybe, in the end, it's these little skirmishes that teach us, both child and adult, what our own limits are, and how far we can push our loved ones without doing irreparble damage to the relationship? We're learning this as we go along, Garrett and I. I've never been a grandmother before, and he's never before been a kid. We spend a lot of time together, he and I. More than the usual grandparent who sees their grandkids once a month, so the dynamics are a little different. I'm not what I call a fairy grandparent who sweeps in with the special trips and treats, who doesn't deal with the day to day. Not a parent, but still an important and pivotal relationship that frequently encounters the best and worst in each of us.

The thing is, you can have already raised a child to adulthood, and read all the books along the way, and then go into another person's childhood where all the rules have changed and there's a brand new set of books and experts on the subject of interacting with a child, of how to handle their tantrums and acting out. But until that one particular moment comes where all books and rules go out the window, you just don't know how you will react in that particular situation. And it's not always pretty. So, yes, I've had my share of demented moments, and I'm sure there will be more to come. But they're preceded and followed by love. Hopefully that will soften the impact for both of us.
(Having re-read this post, I'm thinking I need to clarify that no actual physical violence has ever occurred here beyond a butt swat or arm grab. Certainly the hammer was never used on or aimed at this child or any other! If you read my post titled Fate or Destiny, you know that there's a history of domestic violence in my biological mother's life by her father, but I was never a part of that. I have, however, always worried that the gene would be in me, but, beyond a quick but short-lived temper, I have never demonstrated or felt violent urges.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Canine Companions

In October 2008, we had to have our beloved Annabelle, a shih tzu mix, put to sleep after a year of serious health problems - cushings disease, a brain tumor, and congestive heart failure. It wasn't the first time we had to have this done, and certainly won't be the last, but it was hard none the less. She was our fluffy butt, our cutie patootie, our princess, our lap dog in a house of big dogs. We had had a bad year all around, also losing another dog and three cats to old age. Down to two dogs, I have waited the longest I've ever done before going in search of a new lap dog to fill the void that her departure had left.

I decided to have Annabelle cremated instead of burying her under a bush like we usually do with our pets. In her honor and memory, I planted an Annabelle Hydrangea in the front yard. Perhaps serendipitously, her bush started to bloom during the same week that I found another dog to adopt.

A few weeks back, after months of searching the rescue and shelter sites, I stumbled across a picture of a shih tzu named Bentley (below). It was love at first site, and the shih tzu is one of my favorite dogs. Two years old, housebroken, good with other dogs. A week later, after many emails back and forth with the rescue group, Garrett and I headed to Petco to adopt our newest family member. I could hardly wait to have Bentley in my arms, had dreamed about it all week.

Bentley was a handful. He grudgingly let Garrett and I hold him and carry him around the store, but he yap yap yapped, especially at any other dogs that came around. He wouldn't make eye contact or focus on us at all. In fact, all he could think about were the mice, hamsters and rats in the cages, and we could hardly set him down that he didn't head straight to their cages. But that was ok, I wanted him anyway.

So up to the adoption table we went, money in hand that I had saved up from my house cleaning and babysitting. Told her I wanted him. She said "there's another couple, an older couple who travels a lot, who are also in love with him. Wouldn't you like to look at this other dog that I brought with me?" Well, no. But to humor her we stepped in front of a cage with what looked like a small collie or sheltie puppy named Bear. It wasn't a collie or sheltie, it was a longhaired chihuahua.

Two of the best dogs we ever had were chihuahua mixes, Lulu and Gracie. I have always wanted another chihuahua, but there was no way that was going to happen with our big boxer and terrier. Yet here one was, rolling around on his back, showing us his belly, prancing eagerly at the wire, kissing Garrett's hand, asking us to take him out and have a look, to give him a chance despite having one of the worst overbites I'd ever seen. Bear willingly and excitedly let Garrett lead and carry him all over the store. We went to a quiet back corner, and Bear climbed onto Garrett's lap, snuggling up with a look of adoration and content. He snuggled in my arms and licked my face. He looked in our eyes, focused on what we were saying. So up to the table we went, money in hand, and told her that we wanted him.

Let me tell you, this was not an easy decision for me. I had already let myself love Bentley (go back and look at that face!), so, as I was filling out the adoption papers, I was literally sick to my stomach and near tears. Not that I didn't want Bear, because no one would have trouble loving this little dog. But if Garrett had not been with me, if I had never taken Bear out of that cage, this story would have had a different ending.

Let me introduce you to my new dog, my sweet companion, now named Oliver. Garrett thought it looked like he had "one of those black things on the pizza" on his nose, which was an olive, which is a girl's name, so we settled on Oliver. He's eight months old, eight and a half pounds, and the sweetest and most well behaved puppy you'll ever meet. He was going to have his work cut out for him, because I was about to take him into a home with an unstable pack.

As cute as he was, as sweet or well behaved or playful, he was about to enter a home with an unequal balance of power between it's members - specifically between the two human people and the resident boxer, Eva Jean. It would take all of Oliver's charms to win her over.

This is Eva Jean, a full blooded boxer. (She's actually much prettier, happier and sweeter looking than this photo indicates!) She came into our home five and a half years ago, when I was working at a vet's office. She was four weeks old and had drank from a mastitis tit and developed sepsis. She was in a coma for several days when the owner decided to have her euthenized. James (the vet) and I had worked so hard on her, and when I asked him what he thought should happen, he said he'd give her a few more days. I said if they'd sign her over to me, I'd like to give her some more time.
Long story short, she survived, was paralyzed for a month or so, came out of it, and became a much loved but high maintenance and medically challenged family pet (with muscle atrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, the back of a fifteen year old dog, and hair loss possibly caused by alopecia). But, first and foremost, a boxer, with the most prolonged adolescence of any breed in the canine kingdom. At some point she decided that David was her man, and any of our other dogs needed to stay away. She and Charity had been best friends as young dogs, but now were fight til death enemies, and we became a house divided three years ago after their last horrendous fight that left them both badly injured, both physically and emotionally. David and I were devastated, not just by the brutality of their fights, but because our once harmonious and even admired family of animals had become flawed and unstable.

Eva Jean is such a sweet girl, and a typical boxer clown who's devoted to her family. But her temper is very scarey. She adores the boys, and they can do just about anything to her and she doesn't react. But bring Charity in the room, and she turns into a pit bull. Hence, the baby gates. For the last three years, we've shuffled Charity and Eva Jean, keeping them divided with the gates, one coming out at a time for family and play time. Very inconvenient, but very necessary. Eva Jean is very much a people dog, and was socialized well in her first year, but the female boxer in her doesn't meld with the female terrier. Cesar the Dog Whisperer and Victoria Stillwell (It's Me or the Dog) would be appalled and ashamed of the way we've handled this whole situation! We made all kinds of plans and had ideas for a reconciliation, even have a muzzle so that we could at least let them get together in the same room, but it just hasn't happened, and time has passed without us mitigating the situation.

This is Charity (above), a 50+ pound terrier mix. She came to us through an airedale terrier rescue group that had sent me to a shelter in Atlanta to get her. It was one of those urgent situations, her time was up and she was to be euthenized that afternoon if she wasn't adopted. I took her home with the intention of fostering her, but we fell in love with her the first hour she was with us, and that was seven years ago! She was approximately eight months old, and the first thing she did was gather every pillow and stuffed toy in the house and pile them in the living room. She's very people shy, but has slowly come out of her shell - as long as you don't make sudden moves or talk in a stern or loud voice! She would run and hide from the boys when they were younger, but has slowly but surely started seeking them out or at least stays in the room when they're here. Sadly, since she and Eva Jean have been separated, she has become a bedroom dog (albeit with tv and radio) in need of a playmate. Even though I would go outside with her, she could not be coerced into playing or romping, wanting just hugs and petting.
Enter Oliver. He has surpassed my expectations of him! He adores both boys, and I have been so proud of their respect and gentleness with him. In fact, the biggest problem is that when they're here they fight over who gets to hold or play with Oliver! We've gone very slowly (he's only been here three weeks), but he's fit in and won all hearts, including Eva Jean. I would never allow them to be alone, but we're definitely working toward at least being able to be in the same room together with supervision. I take them out back together, and Eva Jean wags her tail and wants to play, but I'm having to tell her to keep back, as much because of her size and exuberance as anything else, and she's accepting that for now. And, of course, I walk them together.

Conner, the three year old, has already gotten a little ggrrrr from Oliver because he was trying to carry him around too much, but they've since made up, and Conner knows now that he has to only pet Oliver and let him sit on his lap, no carrying or dragging by the leash. His favorite thing is for the two of them to get into the kennel together.

But the best thing of all is this photo above. Oliver and Charity are friends, despite the size difference. I was brought to tears at the sight of Charity dancing and running around in play mode for the first time in three years. They've even played tug of war and frisbee, and first thing in the morning, when I let Oliver out of his sleeping crate, the two run to each other with excitement at seeing each other. I couldn't ask for anything better.

Oliver's definitely a keeper, even though he wasn't my first choice. He's a good friend for the boys, a lap dog for me, a playmate for Charity. And really, who couldn't love a little boy who's so eager to please and so darn cute? I mean, really, look at that face!

You may be wondering why I've devoted so much space to these three dogs. I guess because being a pet owner in your sixties is different than when you're in your twenties. I never thought anything about bringing home a stray or going to the shelter and bringing them home to the other four dogs and three or four cats. But now, there is so much more to think about. Number one, of course, is Eva Jean and her issues that have to be worked around. My daughter and her husband actually didn't want me to get any more animals now that we were down to the two, because they live in fear that David and I will die at the same time and they'll end up having to integrate our animals into their household (though they're both pet lovers!). And then there are the expenses - Eva Jean is on an outrageously priced dog food, and flea and heartworm preventatives are equally expensive.

The idea of being too old to have pets is beyond my wildest imaginings. It just will never happen. To not have at least one to hold and interact with ... how sad! My whole life can be documented by the animals that have shared it. I will, however, try to keep it under control, to use my head instead of my heart. I'll concede that a cat is out of the question right now, but reserve the right to consider it at a later date (when Eva Jean is gone).
Three seems to be a manageable number for right now, and, even though it's not the stable pack of years past, it'll do just fine. They are each special in their own way, and are loved, and make our family complete.

Wander to the Wayside: Cowboy Church

Early on a recent Sunday morning, I headed out to Walmart to beat the church crowd. Camera in lap, I was prepared for just about anything ... except cows on the loose.

I didn't see them at first, but gradually my eye picked them out. I backed up so as not to scare them, and looked around to see what might be going on or where they might have come from. I was prepared, if necessary, to go to the nearest house to see if they had accidentally escaped from there. Having experienced something like this before, but on a main highway at night where a mama and her calf had been killed, I didn't want that to happen in this situation.

After I backed up, I hoped that the cows would go into the driveway that leads to the Cowboy Church, and suspected that they probably belonged to someone in the immediate area who is actually associated with the church.

Unfortunately, the cows took a wrong turn, and ended up facing a fence with no means of entry to the field beyond.

Oops! Now what? Who said cows are dumb ... they turned around in just a few seconds time, and headed right into the Cowboy Church parking lot.

I figured they'd be safe there, and, since many people actually bring their horses and saddles, I had no doubt that the cows would be safely penned until after church and later returned to the rightful owners. I'd say that, all and all, the cows had had a short and thankfully uneventful early morning walk before the church crowd showed up.

This is the church mailbox. There's a similar silhouette on the gate that I accidentally deleted from My Pictures and camera.

Continuing on down the road, I took this photo of something, but can't figure out what. The dead tree looked cool up against the green, so decided to keep it.

This field of hay was just gorgeous in the early morning light and shadows.
It's just been too darn hot here in Georgia to do much wandering around ... especially since I don't have a working air conditioner. (Though my defroster, much to everyone's surprise and bewilderment, does put out cool air that make's it relatively comfortable.)

Monday, June 1, 2009

"Whatcha Think About That"

Today's musical selection is "Whatcha Think About That" by the Pussycat Dolls. It's up there with Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" on my get movin' list. I have to get up and move when it's playing. I have no other choice - it's out of my control. Even if I'm just sitting here at the computer and put it on, my shoulders will start swaying with the beat, then my body starts that bobbing thing and my arms start swaying over my head, then I'm on my feet and doing my best Pussycat Doll moves.

I'm not a very good dancer, though I get an A for effort. And yes, I'm still doing some moves from the 60s. But in my mind I'm a sight to be behold as I strut my stuff around my office, and toward the end of the song I've really found my groove, and I'm sure I'd be a finalist on So You Think You Can Dance.

Try it, you'll like it! (Does anyone actually listen to my music besides me?)