Category Archives: Parenting

I Once Was Lost, But Now I Am Found

We had been home from Ireland less than twenty-four hours.  The dogs had been home from Uncle Jim’s Canine Retreat less than twelve hours.  WHAT WAS I THINKING!?!

Like an atomic clock automatically reset to the correct time when it crosses a time zone, Luci sat in front of her food container.  You can take the dog anywhere and she knows when its dinner and where the food will come from.  I obligingly completed the routine, “Say please.”  All three dogs went down.   I then scooped out the correct portions, (which Luci insists are inadequate), gave the release command “Food” and they scrambled to their appropriate bowls, woofing down the kibble in 30 seconds or less.  Then I  let my posse out for the post-prandial bathroom break.  Like I said…..WHAT was I thinking?

Nonchalantly I returned to the matter of finishing our human dinner.  Minutes passed before I glanced at the gathering dusk and thought “Maybe I better get the dogs in before it’s too dark, just in case Luci doesn’t remember the Invisible Fence Boundaries and we need to hunt.  Hahahahahaha.”   I stepped off the front porch whistling into crisp fall air.  No dogs.  I  rounded the garage whistling around its corner and noted the sun slipping just below the Appalachian horizon.  No dogs.  I called “Cappy! Fly! Luci!  COME!”  and walked briskly toward the meadow.  I chuckled at the sight of Cap and Fly, heads buried in the Lupine Patch, obviously enjoying some scat delicacy.  I whistled again, and they hurled themselves  toward me. 

 No Luci Freckles followed.  I called “Luci!” again and continued to make a loop around the house. Step, call, step, call, step, call.  Each step coming faster, each call rising in pitch.  By the time I came full circle the neighbor German Shepherd had joined my call, and I figured that his was one less yard to search in. I stuck my head into the house shouting “I need help finding Luci!” TD immediately exited the house, then the yard to search the neighborhood. 

I kept calling “Luci!” at a steady, hollering pace, so that she could find her way home in the gathering twilight.  WHAT was I thinking!? Just letting them out, collars on, no supervision, five months old, after supper. WHAT was I thinking?! I seized my highly reactive brain; plan, organize, harness the energy!!!! 

(BTW Jerome Kagan is so on to something

Methodically I moved into the eastern side of the meadow, carefully calling and looking into neighbors’ yards to the left, then searching for movement among the thick patchwork of lupine, milkweed, four kinds of goldenrod, aspen saplings and grasses to my right.

Look left, call.

Look right, call.  Goldenrod stalks stand tall, seed puffs glowing in the dimming light like the pup’s tail I wanted so desparately to see. 

Look left, look right. 

A rustle and shake of some fur caught my attention, pulling it down a now-dark meadow path.  Hardly daring to hope that the missing caramel-colored pup could actually be just disobediently relaxing mid-meadow, I moved through the towering goldenrod.   “Luci?”  “LUCI!?”  Amid the crunching of leaves I could hear the crunching of teeth on animal bone.  “Luci?” Lazily, she lifted her head from her meadow treasure and glanced at my distraught face.  “Uh, yeah, Mom, I’m kinda busy here.  Can I get back to you?”  I slipped the leash on without another word, and Luci-once-was-lost-but-now-is-found reluctantly pranced up the path with me, Cappy and Fly.

As I walked her into the neighborhood to rendezvous with TD my senses were released. For the first time I noticed the sky was streaked with vermillion and cinnabar stripes, pulled west to east, where they disappeared into the eastern dusky gray.   I took great drags of  late autumn air spiced with fallen maple, walnut and oak leaves.  The sky was streaked, not my face.  My throat was full of gratitude, not sobs. And Luci remained oblivious to the search and rescue mission TD and I had launched.

My heart had barely decelerated than I received this email from ITD:

Dear Mom and Dad,

Glad to hear that you guys had a good time and are back safely. I look forward to seeing pictures, and sharing stories with you of your time over there. In recent news, I have decided to spend my funds to do this winter trip with AP . I am in the process of trying to get a new passport, and will be filling out paper work with AP to get a visa with the Syrian embassy. I sent you the itinerary for the trip.blah…blah….blah….I am budgeting 2500 ….my savings…blah…blah…blah…. Let me know if you have problems/concerns with what is going on.(Emphasis mine)……blah…blah…blah…. I have talked not only with AP, but with 5 other people who are from Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan blah…..blah……blah…….Get back to me on the ongoing discussion. Best Regards,

Seriously, my son signed this bombshell “best regards.” 

There is a local bridge repair that requires one to enter the expressway with no ramp, from a stop; 0 mph to 50 mph in about 100 feet.  ITD’s email required my heart to do the equivalent.  If it would have been helpful to the cause to jump up, run around the house, through the meadow, and along rock outcrop paths, I would have.  Such is my response.  Instead, I tore through the US State Department web site, pressing copy and paste buttons until I had my first email response.  I then went to bed.

I awoke with new clarity and initiated the day’s exchange with startling insights and careful ruminations.  Pithy one sentence letters –$1000/day over 21 days=$48/day– were followed by pithy one sentence affirmations –We are amazed by and proud of you! – and then I concluded my day’s assault by reminding him of already owned STA student travel cards, NEXT  student insurance cards, and SIM phone cards.  Planning and research; it’s what I do when running  won’t yield results.

Having ITD travel into the very big world yanks my heart like Luci’s venturing to defy the recall whistle.  I can crash through a field of six-foot high goldenrod stalks, dried in autumn sun to a crisp brown. I can find and drag Luci from the object of her rabbit-lust. I can’t very well crash through the tangle of ideas, skills, and ambitions  I so carefully sowed throughout my son’s childhood.  I can’t find and drag my son from the object of his wanderlust.  Both Luci and my son challenge me to grab onto that calm-assertive energy, and become the person I need to be; so ITD can become the person he needs to be.

 Moment of profound insight. Solemn sigh.



A  C  T     I  O  N    

Next….research and plan a project! …..ITD’s Winter Adventure

Recipes for Happiness: a Collection of Pup-Inspired Ideas to Celebrate Life

by Luci Freckles

  1.   Meadow Stew


1 freshly acquired rabbit               2 paw-spans of meadow herbs, goldenrod leaves, milkweed seed, whatever is on hand

Skin your rabbit, tossing fur to the side.

Roll rabbit in herbs.

Enjoy.  Best if served while still warm, and not shared.

Finding myself has never been so much fun.


It’s a Two-Way Street

Remember those little chairs you were directed to sit in at parent teacher conferences?

Remember the heart palpitations as the  teacher described your child?

“WAH…WAH…WAH….this is what the kids are going to do…yada…yada…yada… and your child isn’t fitting in…blah…blah…blah… and not reaching potential….WAH…BLAH…YADA ….you need to practice…yada…blah…blah…demonstrate competency.

And you sit there thinking,”Well, clearly thechild is not ready for the task! Break it down. Celeberate what is going on. Master this part, then move on.”   Oh, I can feel the restless energy gathering even now; the  clenching and unclenching of jaw muscles, hand muscles.  “Resist the urge to frown, shout , run from room blurting obsenities. You have done this parenting gig before.  Calm…..You know your child. You know children,  and this piece of the education profession doesn’t know quite as much as she thinks she does.”  Breathe.

I hated that world, and all its worries and presumptions.  I thought that I had pruned that kind of socializing out of my life. Then came Puppy School.

A tag team of fifty-something women entered the warehouse-turned-canine school. The taller of the two frowned and intoned, “Obedience work is a two-way street. You listen to me, the instructor, and your dog listens to you. Now sit your dog.”  We practice.

“This is the down,” and the kommandante demonstrates with her canine partner-in-dogma. “Now down your dog.”  We all try with varying degrees of  success that  any rational dog owner would expect from puppies in their first group experience. “Now we are going to step away,” and drill sargeant doodle-head proceeeds to describe in excrutiating detail how to hold the leash, give the command, pivot in front of the down pup, and …blah…blah…blah. Of course, puppies break the down as she talks.  SHE WHO KNOWS SO MUCH goes to attend to a particularly large 10 week old shepherd,and  in stern tones alternately reprimands the owner and pup.  Meanwhile my little Luci is down, but certainly not out.  Her attention is off me and taking in the big cavernous space, ever alert to the pup to her left and the little teeny tiny mutt to her right WHO WILL NOT LOOK AT HER!  Luci, a bossy little 4 month old English Shepherd, is like “Gasp! Mom, Mom, he won’t look at me!  Hey, Hey!  You! Do you like it here?  Hey, hey! MOM! ”  To intercept the focus I quickly move to practice the down again. Suddenly I hear this disapproving “I didn’t tell you to down your dog” and realize she is talking to ME! So I quickly move back into the position of owner by pup.  “Now down your dogs.” 

 Thank goodness I remembered the Parents’ Guide to Good Behavior:

Rule #1. Always remember and never forget: At all times, in all places, with all people, comport yourself as a lady/gentleman. 

Rule #2. Pay your lesson fees/tuition in full and on time.

Rule # 3.  Smile.

Rule #4. If your insights are not invited and your collaboration not solicited,  refer to Rule #1.

Which I did.

Resist the urge to frown, shout , run from room blurting obsenities. You have done this parenting gig before.  Calm…..You know your pup. You know puppies,  and this piece of the dog training profession doesn’t know quite as much as she thinks she does.  Breathe.

And so I made it through the night.  Luci and I learned how to travel in the car for a HALF HOUR; learned that a flat collar will definitely NOT do in a class setting; learned that we do NOT want to compete in the two-way street of AKC Obedience Tests. 

Nope. The two-way street I want to travel is between me and my pup, and I want training that encourages us to listen to one another.  I’m a parent.  I know how to travel on.

Won’t You Please Shine Down on Me

Oh, Mister Moon, Moon, Bright and silvery moon, Won’t you please shine down on me.

Oh, Mister Moon, Moon, Bright and silvery moon, Come from behind that tree.

Tonight we are close to having a Harvest Moon, that big orange full moon that rises soon after the Fall Equinox.  My three shaggy pals join me for a night walk.  Fly and Cappy take off into the brush to flush a rabbit and snack on rabbit duds.  Luci Freckles sleepily navigates the path before munching on a night log.  They seem oblivious to the silver disk shining down on us.   I listen to the grass-bending of rabbits and moles and mice; the whisper of night wings; the soft slow chirps of cold invertebrates; the night bays of neighbor dogs.

I hear children’s voices singing little ditties,  Mister Moon.

“I see the moon and the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me.”

Before whistling in my pups I breathe out a  thanks for silvery memories of my babies’ childhoods; and whisper a plea for their continued safety.  I hope my two remember to look up this week and harvest my love, sent by moonlight, to their new homes.

Goodnight, Moon.

The Finish of Beginnings, The Start of Endings

It seems to me that life can be divided into beginnings and endings.

Child #1 leaves for graduate school.  Child #2 leaves for new apartment and sophomore year in college. Dog #3 arrives to distract mother of said children #1 and #2. 

I can label these changes as Chapters of Life,  Developmental Stages, Academic Calendars, Empty Nest. Every beginning has a start and a finish, and a middle. Every ending has a start and a finish, and a middle.  All these beginnings and endings just get all jumbled up inside me. 

The scary part about this emptying phase of life is that, although the endings are pretty evenly distributed, all the beginnings appear to belong to someone else.  The kids get to start a new academic year with all its new courses, classmates and teachers.  The kids get to set up new apartments and define new homes.  The husband gets to start making preparations for a career change, because the kids are nearing the self-sufficient stage.  The puppy even gets to start a new adventure with two great pals. 

Where are my beginnings? 

I found a clue by observing my dogs.

Luci has reached that stage in dog life where the comfort zone contracts.  Garbage cans are dog-eating monsters.  Car rides are unnerving sensory exercises. Acorns dropping from oak trees are projectiles from dog-hating gods. I deliberately set off with a leashed Luci every day investigating yet another evil-doer; I gently but firmly insist that she face her fear, and realize that not only will she survive to bark at another day BUT she will discover beginnings of new adventures. Puppies need good handlers to bring out their best instincts, and we mommies-letting-go need handlers/friends to bring out our best instincts.   I need to  find someone to be on the other end of the leash, to pull gently but insistently toward my safe new beginnings.

Luci knows how to ask for help,  with big dark chocolate pools of eye.  

I have words, and I need to give them voice.  I need only ask for help, ’cause my emptying is finished and my beginnings have begun.

Baby Makes Three

Luci is sprawled out at my feet, reminiscent of big dog Cappy, who is sitting outside somewhere fuming about the pint- sized competition.  Big dog Fly is sprawled out on the foyer’s stone, on the OTHER side of the baby gate. 

A truce, of sorts, forty-eight hours into my latest insane attempt to cope with Empty Nest Syndrome.  The thinking goes something like this: If I add another piece of fur to my life, then I will have to nurture THAT life and butt out of my children’s budding adulthoods.  It sounds so sane, so rational. 


Since when is self-induced sleep deprivation a healthy alternative to anything? 

To remind myself of why I am willingly engaging in torture I have developed my What a Great Idea List:

  • The fifteen pounds of caramel-colored fluff already wiggles in glee every time she catches sight of me. 
  • Scoop The Puppy Before The Pee is a great game and definitely gets the mom juices flowing, and I don’t have time to notice young adult surliness.
  • Dogs are generally much more obedient than kids. 
  • Agility games are more fun to play than cheerleading from the rail of a horse show or from the sidelines of a youth sport. 
  • Dogs always want you to pay attention to them. 

I feel much saner.

So you thought the worrying was over

So Sleepy
So Sleepy

The six o’clock alarm of puppy yips started the morning off.  Kettle on, puppy out, all dogs to the outdoor john, walk the meadow. Make the coffee, fix the dog breakfast, all dogs- big and little- wait for the word “Food!” On to the post-prandial meadow cruise for puppy snifs and toilette.  The second cup of coffee was in one hand, the door held open with the other and the big dogs rushed out pushing little Luci off the porch step. 

One step.  Maybe seven inches from wooden porch floor to garden slate pathstone.  Luci must have been prepared to take one of her rocket leaps and was caught off balance by the big dog’s haste.  I couldn’t put my mug down quickly enough.  My little honey-colored honey lay still, lifted her head and went limp.  I put her in my lap and with shaking hands palpated first her left shoulder moving smoothly down to her little puppy nails. I cooed ” Knocked the breath out of you, didn’t they, little one?” Luci looked at me, never yelping or flinching in pain.  I checked her belly and her back, and then set her gently down to check her capacity to bear weight.   With her sable speckled paw held high it was obvious that she had landed funny on her right side. One lap check later, I still could find no obvious points of pain or break in the right leg.  My brain stopped dialing the Pet ER. 

I have watched my daughter get bashed up in field hockey, my son get launched bum over head off his horse, listened to tales of bike crashes in downtown Amsterdam(daughter) or rural Maryland (son).  I have imagined a certain wisdom curve being climbed in this parenting gig, a summit scaled where life’s oopsies get calmly processed. And here I am, mentally talking myself down from the “MUST TAKE ACTION” peak over an 8 week old puppy’s boo boo!

Luci has chewed herself to sleep, resting her nose in the kitchen doorway, back up against my desk drawer, blue pup bone by her right cheek.  As I wrote this post she contentedly played, got up for water with just a bit of a limp, and put herself down for a nap. 

My Luci is a bold girl, and her puppy years will probably empty my wisdom bank. But  at least my kids won’t bear the burden of the well-intentioned mom rescue.  I will be too busy climbing my next parenting mountain.