Monday, October 03, 2011

Farewell, dear friend

A dear friend of mine died today. She was about 11 years old, near as we know. I thought she had a bit longer to go, but it turns out that isn't the case. I'm writing a bit about her life, partly in homage, partly to assuage the guilt I feel for being so distracted by my family that I wasn't a better friend to her the past few years. She was an amazing dog, and she traveled with me through a significant part of my life. She will be sorely missed.

The Early Years
Big Transitions

Sequoia: the early years

I first met Sequoia when she was a wee gal, 9-12 months old according to the shelter. She'd been found wandering around town. She was exactly the dog my boyfriend and I were looking for - a medium sized pit bull mix. Another family was interested in her, so I watched with trepidation as they took her into the fenced enclosure for a meeting. They had a toddler with them, and when he came over to her, she sat down and patiently tolerated his pulling and prying on her face and ears. (in hindsight, as a parent now, I'm horrified those people took a young child to meet an unknown dog!)

I lucked out - they didn't pick her. I had to wait a week to take her home, and when I picked her up she had a tattoo on her shaved belly. Turns out their tattoo machine was broken, so they had closed her incision with stitches that would make it clear to any future shelter that she was already fixed. The hair never really grew to cover the mark, and she forever bore that bright green mark.

Getting her into my car was a challenge. Her only previous car ride had been from her life of wilderness to the shelter. Other hallmarks of life indoors proved equally perplexing: climbing stairs took days to master (though the day she "got it" she ran up and down and up and down). She walked around the wood stove, looking for the dog she saw in the glass. My boyfriend practiced his tuba one day when she was home, and she was spooked from going into that room for a few days. She spent her days enjoying the 2 acres of land we were renting. She killed a rabbit and two squirrels that first week (at least that's all I knew about), and one of the most beautiful images I have of her is watching her bound through the chest-deep weeds, and then stop, raise up on her hind legs, and sniff a sunflower that was growing in the middle of the pasture.

When we moved into our new home, she and I started taking long walks quite regularly. She would run ahead and come back, run ahead and come back, always keeping me within her sight. There was a five mile forest loop that was scarcely used, so she got away with going leash-less almost exclusively, something I paid for when we moved to the city. I often took her for mountain hikes, too. Once, when I was lonely and newly-single, I decided to hike a rather abandoned trail. About half way up she came running back to me, and sat down behind me. I kept on a bit further, trying to encourage her to come. She wouldn't budge. Finally I decided that she must have smelled something further up the trail, so I decided to turn around and go home. I'll never know if she sensed a bear or mountain lion, but it was the one and only time she ever did that, so I'm sure she protected me from something.

During this time she developed a reputation around food. She was never randomly destructive like puppies can be, but she was 100% untrustworthy around food. She would eat 20 pounds of dog food if I didn't close the cabinet. She would eat a bag of baking flour if I didn't put the groceries away. My mom mailed me a gift for my birthday a few months after she moved in. The gift sat on the kitchen table, and I was saving it to open when I came home. That evening I found a new sweater on the floor, and bits of wrapping paper, and I was thoroughly confused. Then I found the scraps of plastic bags....Mom had sent me a box mix for cheesecake with a sweater. Sequoia had torn into, and thoroughly licked up, the mix, somehow doing so without damaging the sweater. From thence forth, any packages sent to me containing food were clearly labeled, "Sequoia alert."

Sequoia: Big transitions

Sequoia and I left the Tijeras Mountains and moved into Albuquerque. It was a huge change - from a 2000 square foot house to a room, from five mile walks to a small dog park. She also got some roommates: a 22 year old cat and a quiet little dog. Oh, and a human friend, too. The cat took one swipe at her, and forever scared her. The dog was a loyal little friend who buried dog biscuits all over the house, which Sequoia followed closely behind to gobble up. There were many more amazing eating episodes, most notoriously the 27 cans of cat food. There were at least another dozen she didn't eat, so we can only assume that her belly was full or her jaw was tired from popping open the cans. Less notorious, but still impressive, was the surgical, virtually unnoticable removal of Shade's Christmas dog treats from a box that was otherwise full of human gifts. She was only discovered when we were asked if Shade had enjoyed her gift. What gift?

In addition to our life at the new house were our hours at The Haunted House. Sequoia demonstrated the concept of dogged persistence when she tried, for more than 3 hours, to breech the chicken coop.

She moved with me across country, riding patiently through the 32 hours of driving. While my furniture was being packed up, she somehow figured out which one suitcase was not going into the moving van, and she climbed on top of it to be sure she went where it went, with me. During the drive out, she ended up sleeping both nights in the car because she was such a nervous wreck in the hotel; afraid, I guess, of being left behind.

Life in NJ suited her pretty well. My new roommates looked at her as "one of the guys", going so far as to place an order for her when they ordered food from PJs. Brant came into our lives at this point, and wisely worked his way into her heart (taking her for walks when I was out of town) while he slowly worked on mine. She never quite took to taking orders from him, though, and would always look to me for confirmation any time he gave her a command. When I nodded she would do as he had said.

Friday, October 01, 2010

the food we eat

I was in the grocery checkout line today, behind a family purchasing the following:

1x24-pack of soda
3 bags of various popcorn/potato chip/cheese puff things
1 box of chocolate chip cookies
1 box of toaster strudels
1 box of pop tarts
(a number of other incredibly manufactured foods)**
1 gallon of milk
1 huge container of spring greens

And I couldn't help thinking....what are the odds that the greens were going to end up rotting in the bottom of the fridge in a few days?

** I realize the significance of this post would be stronger if I could remember everything in the cart, but I was shopping with both little ones today

Saturday, September 25, 2010

spoilage and manipulation

The yarnharlot just posted a wonderful synopsis of the "you can't spoil a baby by holding him/her" topic. Go read it, then come back. Thanks.

I'd like to jump off from where she left off, and talk about spoiling kids in general, and this horrible idea of "manipulation". It's midnight, so I'm sure this is not going to be as eloquent as I'd like.

I have a 3 year old, and it seems like every moment of every day is spent with my trying to manipulate/cajole/coerce him into doing every single thing that needs doing. "If you put pants on, we can go to the park." "If you hit your brother, you will get a time out." And when I'm not manipulating/cajoling/coercing him, I'm pulling out the "I'm the mommy and I said so" guns. The poor little dear gets so little free will. His life is largely dictated by the big people in his life. I mean, yes, I give him choices wherever I can (the green shirt or the red one?) but not everything is a choice (you may not go to the store naked, you will wear your seat belt). Can you blame a kid for using his most powerful skills (screaming, crying, thrashing about) to try to eek out a bit of control in his life? You might call what I'm doing "action/consequence", but it's the framework of their outbursts, too. Action: give me the thing I want, or Consequence: I'll scream like a banshee in the middle of the store. Except with the toddler set the consequence comes right on top of the demand.

I'm generally of the opinion that adults consider a child's behavior manipulation when it is either a) effective or b) being used to get something the parent really does not want to give. For example, my son "manipulates" us into staying with him while he falls asleep. I'd much rather use the 8-9pm hour to clean up the kitchen and get ready for the next day, but he takes a really long time to fall asleep and he doesn't like to do it alone. He's THREE. He is never left alone for longer than a few minutes during the day - why would he feel comfortable laying in a dark room by himself for an hour?

As adults we use manipulation throughout all of our interactions, but we've developed a lot of finesse. As far as I can imagine, we all honed our skills on our parents. Honestly - refusing to give into manipulation is probably a good thing when the child's best interests are at heart. But doing it to teach them that manipulation won't work is foolish. They're just going to get better and practice more.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


My son was born at 37 weeks and 4 days gestation. Today I am 37 weeks and 5 days. My son was born 6 hours after I left work on my last day. Today is my 3rd workday since the commencement of maternity leave.

I'd like to say that I'm waiting patiently, because what other kind of waiting is there when you have no control?

In truth, though, I'm waiting with ambivalence. I'm huge and uncomfortable and can't do everything like I'd normally be able to. But with newborn in arms I'll be exhausted and sore and won't have a chance to do everything like I'd normally be able to. Every day that passes makes me fear for how big this baby will get, yet every night I snuggle with my son and know our time for such closeness is limited.

There's a full moon on Thursday. Maybe then?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

If you wouldn't say it when I wasn't pregnant....

Why would you say it when I am?
I'll update as needed, but so far these are the wonderful things I've heard during this pregnancy:

26 weeks, +18 pounds
"That shirt isn't a distraction. You still look pregnant."

25 weeks, +18 pounds
"Are you still here??"
"Uh...I'm not due until June."
"What? And you're already that big?"

18 weeks, +7 pounds
"Are you having a baby?"
"Oh good, I thought you were getting fat."

12 weeks, +1-2 pounds
"When are you due? You're already walking really funny."

10 weeks, +0 pounds
"Oh! You're having another baby!"
(silence - I was dumbfounded)
"I could just tell - you're normally so skinny!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

nursing a toddler - a conclusion

I'd always thought weaning would be dramatic, or painful, or heartbreaking. Thus I was thoroughly unprepared for it being unremarkable and unnoticed. The first day we didn't nurse at all was Saturday October 17. I left home early early (to go to Rhinebeck) while the wee one was sleeping, and arrived home while he was getting his bedtime bottle. Daddy did an excellent job that day, and the not-nursing that day was a non-issue. The next morning we resumed our daily early-morning nursing sessions, and I didn't give it another thought. Then every so often I'd realize that he hadn't asked to nurse in the morning, and hadn't asked after work which is his wont when the morning session was skipped. Then one weekend morning in early December I realized that we hadn't nursed once since the previous weekend. It's now December 16th and we've nursed three times so far this month.

I'm pleased that the conclusion of our nursing relationship came without a fuss, but I'm also feeling some mixed emotions. The reason we were only nursing once or twice a day was totally my demand - nursing at bedtime had become unbearable so I'd had to end that. Nursing mid-day on the weekends made me uncomfortable during the week, so I'd nixed that as well. All I'd permit was morning and after work - and soon the after work session fell away as there were so many more interesting things for a toddler to do upon returning home (chase the dog, find the motorcycle). So I'm feeling a bit like the weaning was my doing, even if it was a long time coming.

I never figured out how to manage The Octopus, and I wonder if the moms who nurse their children to 3 or 4 years old are more tolerant than I am, or if their wee ones are less active.

It's a bittersweet day when your baby no longer needs you in that way. I'm so pleased to see him acting all grown up, but fortunately (at least for now) he often reminds me, "I'm little."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

nursing a toddler

aka nursing an octopus
aka nursing an acrobat

Oh my little monkey,
It doesn't seem so long ago that your feet just reached the other side of my body, toes curling around my rib cage. You would close your eyes and place tight fists beside either cheek as your full focus was on getting milk into your belly. You were demanding, needing a top-off every hour or two in those early days. Your cries of hunger were desperate and angry then.

But now you're a big boy, your rump on the couch by my hip as you stretch out across me. Your lower hand likes to pinch me, and dig between my ribs. Your top hand pulls on my necklace or shirt collar, or worse, scratches my chest and reaches inside my shirt to poke and pinch. I routinely sport scratch marks from you. Yesterday you were experimenting with using your feet to brace yourself so you could arch your back off my lap. If I would let you nurse standing up, I'm sure you would, but I try to establish some rules and manners. Our days are littered with "Ma-ma? Ma-ma?" as you pat a chair or couch for me to sit down. I often say no now. You get angry - throwing your head back and screaming - but then, you get angry every time your will is thwarted. Only when I'm convinced you need to nurse (or when I need to nurse you) do I acquiesce to your insistent pounding. It truly is a surprise to me that, if I allowed it, you'd nurse as often now as when you were an infant, despite eating several meals a day and drinking water/juice/milk/tea from a cup.

But I just don't enjoy it anymore. When you were tiny and we struggled, I persevered knowing that there was no other option. Your only sustenence was what I made for you. The exhaustion from waking all night, the frustration of being stuck in a chair for most of my day - it was worth it to see you put on weight. Now that you're older, I love to reconnect with you when I come home in the evening, to look into your pure slate-grey eyes, to run my fingers through your thick curls and over your delicate cheeks. But then you start in with the poking and pinching and scratching, and I am the referee again, saying, "No!" and pulling your hands off me. Your daddy even tried to help, devising a blanket/swaddling trick that worked great - and also made you lose your mind with rage.

I really want to let you nurse as long as you need to, but you show no signs of weaning. I haven't set any deadlines, I haven't made any decisions. But I'm looking forward to the day we can cuddle without nursing. I know I'll miss your cheek against my breast, I'll miss those quiet, private moments, and the intense way you look into my eyes. But I won't miss my pinchy little octopus.

(post originally written in March - but it still holds true today)