Theodore the Great- Part One

20130515-140618.jpg

That was the picture on Craigslist I found when desperately combing through all the “toy poodles” listed for my area.

You see, last December my old dog Champ died. He was a big old chubby German Shepherd/ Basset Hound mix that I love dearly. Champ had epilepsy, and his seizures were dangerously severe. I nursed him and medicated him and drove him to numerous doctors looking for answers for years. Champ helped me become an adult. He helped me take real responsibility. He was a friend when I needed one. He was a helper when I needed one. He was my companion, and when he died I was more devastated than I had ever imagined. I mourned for him longer and more painfully than I have mourned for humans! I even began feeling guilty for grieving so heavily over a dog! It’s a special, innocent relationship to love and be loved by a dog.

At first I wanted no “replacement.” My heart ached only for Champ, but he was not coming back. When I thought I was ready again, I fostered a dog from the humane society with the intention to adopt. After one night with that sweet dog, I woke up crying and knowing that I was either not ready yet, or this dog was not right for me. Regretfully we sent that dog back with a note and a monetary donation, never adopting him. I felt so guilty but seeing him in my house made me miss Champ so much it hurt. (I did keep up with the fate of that dog and he was adopted shortly after.)

Then I was content to be dog-less again for a period: scared of another failed attempt to let a new dog into our house and especially my heart.

I am a believer in fate/divine plan/ miracles (whatever you call it in your mind.) There came a day a few weeks later when I developed an obsessive behavior of searching online for toy poodles. I was emailing individuals, applying to rescue groups, texting sellers, and TALKING about this process all the time! I have no idea where the desire for a toy poodle came from, but I sure am glad it came. Before that time, I hadn’t expressed an interest in poodles since I was about three!

Anyways, so there I was- searching Petfinder, Craigslist, and every humane society around for a toy poodle- the opposite of the kind of dog I was previously attracted too. And I found this guy.

20130518-145704.jpg

If I said it was love at first sight I would be lying. My desperate searching self was in love with every little curly dog I saw at that time. If I said it was a match made in heaven, then maybe you’d understand.

I sent another email laced with hope, love, desire, and potential, just like all the others I was sending at the time.

I got a reply that he was still available.

I tried very hard not to get my hopes up.

For four days, I went back and forth through email, texting, and phone calls with the owner of the mop-like white dog. She was very frustrating, to say the least. She told me the small dog got on her nerves. She told me numerous lies. (One being that he was a pure bred toy poodle with papers.) She let me down, then got my hopes up, then let me down again. I was beginning to wonder if the dog she was advertising even existed. The more she proved untrustworthy, however, the more i wanted that dog (if he existed) out of her wavering hands and into my loving ones. Finally I asked my dad to intervene. He called her, asking about the dog, only to be told “I don’t have a dog on Craigslist! Leave me alone!” And she hung up.

He called back demanding the truth. After a few more calls and the stern voice of a father, it was decided that she would meet him the following day at a nearby gas station.

Advertisements

My Main Man Rupert

Meet Rupert.

20130513-121558.jpg

He’s a sock.

Well, he was a sock until he became a Rupert.

Now he’s a furry little guy who lives in my purse and comes out when there are children around to marvel in his magic.

I made him for an assignment in my Elementary Art Education class as a closing project. He is created from a sock, two googly eyes, some feathers, two cardboard triangles inside that provide structure to the mouth, and hot glue. Our teacher thought we could make them to take to our own classes one day and use as instructional tools. I might do that too, when the time comes, but in the mean time I have a better idea!

The kids I babysit love Rupert! He intrigues them in a way an ordinary toy couldn’t because he comes alive and interacts with them. The eighteen month old twins don’t understand that he is attached to my arm, or that it is my vocal cords that power his speech. All they know is that he is furry, he can tickle them, he talks, he moves all around, and he gives them lots of kisses!

On a car ride sitting in the back seat with children, out he comes.

When someone is fussy and can’t be consoled, out he comes.

I love that he is just a simple sock, too, because if I am using him to entertain one baby, and then the other baby gets into mischief (an extremely common and rapidly occurring event), I can quickly snatch her up or take a dangerous object from her hand while still wearing Rupert!

Sometimes Rupert comes on too strong, though. When the girls first met Rupert, they were interested in him, but also very confused and uneasy. He had to slowly gain their trust in order to acquire tickle and kisses rights- just like a person. Also, when kids first wake up is not a good time for Rupert to be excited or affectionate. Babies need their time and space to wake up, too!

If you’re looking for a fun activity to make with a child four years or older, I would suggest making a sock puppet with him or her! Make it a grand event with an important emphasis given to naming, creativity, and craftsmanship. You can develop a story of where your new friend came from and how they came to live with you. Pick a special place in the house where it will “live” and provide some washcloths or old baby blankets for a bed.

For younger children like the ones I watch, they can still appreciate the mystery of a sock puppet you make ahead of time and present to them. As a babysitter, I don’t leave Rupert at the kids’ house, but he does have a designated place where he can always be found- my bag.

If you are good at impressions, choose a funny accent to use when you are playing with your puppet. (I’ll admit I am inconsistent with Rupert’s voice. Sometimes he is a high pitched southern voice, sometimes he is a sophisticated Englishman.)

For children learning to read, use the puppet as a reading buddy! Reading aloud can help children build confidence, and an expert adult reader may seem like an intimidating audience. The child can slip their puppet friend onto their hand, find a quiet place, and read to their friend.

Some other ideas for how to use your sock puppet-

– For older children in an argument, your sock puppet can listen to both sides of the story and mediate conflict resolution.
– Your puppet can sing songs the children are learning (in a different voice than you normally sing it it) to reinforce the melody and words.
– The obvious way to use a puppet is to put on a play! You may have to show them first, but after a while older kids will be able to put on their own impromptu or even planned production.

Be creative and enjoy your puppet. I would LOVE to hear any other puppet use ideas, or different materials to make them with.

20130513-130025.jpg

Twin Problems

I hate it when bloggers apologize for not blogging and then offer excuses.

With that being said, sorry I have been neglecting this thing for a few days! End of semester art student portfolio reviews and finals time. Enough said.

So, I babysit sixteen month old identical twin girls. I’ve been with them almost a year, and I am pretty good about telling them apart now- most of the time.

We’ll call the girls Doodle and Belle.

Now usually the girls’ parents dress them a specific way to make it easier to quickly tell them apart (cheating, but very convenient). Doodle is usually wearing warmer colors like yellow, pink, or red. Belle wears cooler colors like purple, green, or blue. (As a side note, I don’t think their parents sat down with a color wheel to make this decision. That just goes to show the intuitive nature of art that I can classify their choice so easily). Of course these are just general guidelines- the girls have worn colors other than these before. Sometimes they even wear white onsies with their initial monogrammed on the chest in a very sophisticated little baby way. Yesterday, however, we ran into a little problem.

I arrived a little later than usual due to a morning appointment and the girls were already dressed. They were in tie-dye onsies friends and family had decorated at their baby shower before they were even born! Cute right? (Their mom prefers that tie dye be reserved for casual friday, but their dad likes to get them in it whenever he has the chance.)

I’m gonna paint the scene here:

So I walk in and the babies are running around, screaming with excitement that I had arrived, rushing over to hug me and be held before I even set my stuff down. They are awesome greeters. I attempted to tell them hello by name and ruffle their hair as I addressed them the way I usually do…. Except I couldn’t.

Which baby is which?!?!

I looked closely for a minute, made my guess, and asked their dad, “So this is Doodle and this is Belle?” (Trying to sound very confident in my guesstimating.)

He thinks for a moment, then says, “Ah, no actually I think this is Doodle and this is Belle.” (He is either very confident or very good at pretending to be confident.)

I look again… I still disagree. “Are you sure? I really think this one right here is Doodle.”

He says he thinks he’s sure and offers a solution. One baby has one less tooth!

So there we are, hanging babies upside down to get them to laugh and open their mouths so we can have a peek at their tooth count, and guess what? The baby with slower tooth growth has had a tooth growth spurt overnight and there is hardly any difference anymore. We get a little worried. We both lose our false sense of confidence in our guesses and look at each other confused.

All I can think is that I wish the girls’ mom was there because she can always tell her babies apart. She’s got that momstinct thing going on. (I’ll name her Madonna because I am an art history minor and I always picture her in paintings of Mary and Jesus and John.)

So the girls’ dad (I’m gonna go ahead and fake name him Bullet) comes up with an idea! Bullet suggests that we brush the girls’ teeth because “Belle loves it and Doodle hates it.”

Great idea! So we haul the babies to the bathroom. Baby one is presented with a loaded toothbrush and we wait anxiously to see what she does like the world watches that groundhog once a year. She takes it and begins happily brushing her teeth.

We have a small celebration that we have identified that baby as Belle, and just to prove the point, we present the second baby with her loaded toothbrush in order to observe the stark contrast.

She takes the brush and begins happily brushing her teeth.

What in the world??? We are laughing so hard at this point the babies probably think we are lunatics.

Bullet is especially annoyed because he and Madonna have to deal with Doodle’s defiance every night at teeth brushing time, and now that her defiance would actually be helpful she is cooperative.

Two strategies failed, we had one more hope- the ear bump.

Doodle has a small bump behind her ear that Belle doesn’t. It has been fading as she grows, but we felt just enough difference to identify her.

Whew!

Dear Madonna,
I am very sorry if this post is the first time you heard about this incident. We were very embarrassed. And for the record, Bullet was right all along.

20130420-132020.jpg

Knock on Wood

Know where the saying “Knock On Wood” comes from? I don’t either but I have heard a theory.

The theory I heard one time is that it comes from some ancient religious people with lots of gods, and one of them was the tree God. When they needed a little extra luck or blessing or whatever you call it, they would tap some wood to summon the tree god and they’d get a little lovin from the guy with the power. And so now, when we do or say something that makes us nervous or superstitious feeling, we too summon the wood god by knocking on his wooden door.

Trying to figure out if this theory was right I used mine and Maven’s BFF, Google, to see if he knew. He wasn’t sure either. I did find this site that offers five theories, one very similar to mine (the one I heard that I have claimed as my own). I like mine best though.

Anyways, this whole rant came about because I was thinking about how my allergies have been very mild so far this spring. Then I thought- Knock on Wood!

The original intent of this post was to be a very generic, feel good, read about the arrival of spring. You guys know how great spring is though… You really do. Depending on how old you are, you have probably experienced very many springs. I was going to tell you how cute it was when I took the little twins I babysit to the park. I was also going to tell you that I am on a hunt for an 1)affordable 2)effective 3)easy to purchase 4) organic 5)feels good on your skin SUNSCREEN. I don’t think it is possible to find a product with alll of these amazing qualities, but a girl can dream right? Also, a girl can ask everyone who reads her blog if they have suggestions, right? Right.

I’ll take this time while I am avoiding being corny about spring (it is often very hard for me to avoid being corny) to mention that I found something about the gym I don’t like:

I don’t like seeing people I know there!

I mean, really. It’s like, what am I supposed to say to you?

      -I’m not going to ask you for an update on your life- I am trying to work out here and so are you! Also, I probably already know all about your life because of all the over sharing we are guilty of on social media. I literally introduced my boyfriend to an old high school teacher yesterday at the gym and his response was “Yeah, I’ve seen him on Instagram.”

    -I’m not going to ask you what you are doing here. You are either working out or trying to appear like you are working out. So I’ve got a 50/50 shot just guessing.

     -I’m not going to talk about the weather.

     -I’m not going to say that we should hang out sometime and that you should contact me and we’ll make plans. Because, well, we probably won’t.

So this is the end of my unorganized, non-corny, non-generic, post that mentions spring but also mentions other very loosely related topics such as the gym, sunscreen, allergies, and theories about a common saying. Next post will have more structure- I pinky promise. It’s just that today I didn’t feel like structure.

Knock on Wood.

IMG_1533

Girl Power Hour

Remember those raised beds that a very nice handy man made for us to plant a little garden in? Well he did. Here’s what happened though- a plan for a practical little gardening project somehow managed to morph into a full-on sustenance farming endeavor (perhaps a slight exaggeration.) So, we needed some more beds, quickly, before we lost our will power! And why should we call a handy man from across town just to come drill together four pieces of wood for us, huh? We have a drill! Maternal Maven bought it on Ebay, and we are ready and willing to give it a try! So what if we have absolutely no experience? We’ve got this. Maybe.

It was a beautiful morning, and Maven’s niece (Ginger’s cousin) was over (we’re gonna call her Libby because I think she has liberal political views and also I can just really picture her name being Libby.) Anyways, so the three of us girls decided it was a good day to tackle the project. Maven grabbed her drill and we headed outside to the wood planks. We learned many lessons.

The first was that it’s best to work on a level surface. We turned the little bed things on their side and made a little bench. (I use the adjective “little” far too loosely) Libby sat on it to help flatten out the board and make sure Maven was able to drill the piece flush together. I watched.

Image

It was Maven’s first time using a drill and she was going to town! At first she was pre-drilling one hole, then driving the screw. Then pre-drilling another hole, then driving the screw. Then, we developed a system where she would pre-drill all the holes on one side, then drive all the screws on that side. It saved the hassle of switching the drill bit in and out. Libby was good about reminding her to do that. I was good at watching.

IMG_9045

Onyx and Zusanna (the black wolf-like dogs) were very intrigued by the drill. I think they wanted to be drilled in the mouth by the way they tried to eat the spinning head. We did not allow that.

IMG_9046

Maven and Libby carried the heavy beds into the front yard. I watched.

IMG_9048

If you know our technique of choosing bed spots based on the intricate shadow patterns, you will know that this is not where the beds ended up. If you don’t, I just told you.

The next step was to add the dirt! We loaded it up into the wheelbarrow (with one casualty) and tried (unsuccessfully) to push it into the yard.

IMG_9049

IMG_9051

So, with a flat tire, we were done for the day. The dirt will have to be carefully added (dumped) into the beds another day.

I just realized that I mentioned earlier that we learned a lot of lessons, but then only mentioned one. Here’s some more for the sake of making a list and fulfilling promises.

2) You can get a good deal on a drill without a batter charger on eBay when cable guys lazily leave their drill battery charger at your house and never come back for it.

3) Dogs have no common sense.

4) Watch for faces before you sling dirt around.

5) Working is fun when you do it with friends.

6) Power tools are not as scary as you think!

7) You can get out of working by holding the screws and insisting that you need to document photos for your blog.

8) Etc. (Lazy talk for “I’m out of advice people.”)

My Gym Whim

So for over a year now, my boyfriend (hence force referred to as Ginger), has been asking me to go to the gym with him. My response has very consistently and confidently been “No.”

Why? Here was my rationale-
The gym is a scary place!
There are fit people.
People wear tight workout clothes.
Almost EVERYONE is stronger than me.
I look silly working out.
I am scared of being with all those people.
They might LOOK at me!

And why do you want me to go to the gym anyways, huh? I’m not fat. I’m not in a competitive sport that requires my strength for success. I’m 5’4 and 115lbs, just happy living a fairly active lifestyle and staying home when you take your daily gym trips.

He INSISTED I would like the gym and I should join him, but for over a year I blew it off. Obviously he didn’t know the kind of things I enjoy!

Or maybe he does.

So about a week ago, I finally decided I would go.

Once.

Just to make him happy, and to be able to say: “I tried it. I hate it. I’m not going again. Leave me alone.”

I started stressing big time about what I would wear. I asked everyone under the son for gym outfit tips. I wanted to look cute, but not too revealing. I wanted to fit in as well. I settled on some leggings I already had and I bought a workout tank top. I think I had more anxiety and effort into that outfit than I did for my senior prom.

We met Ginger’s best friend who works at the gym (henceforth referred to as Protein) and Protein’s friend (henceforth referred to as Smiles) in the parking lot. I was a nervous wreck! They were all very sweet and assured me it would be fine.

And guess what?

It was.

I actually enjoyed myself! None of the things I had been worried about turned out to be worth my worry. My friends I was with were so helpful and made me feel welcomed into their workout group. I had been afraid I would be a burden, but they really made me feel at ease.

So we went back a couple days later. And again a couple days later. (All three times I was a guest.) Yesterday, guess what the Superhero of Imperfection did?

Joined the gym.

It’s true! I really have learned to enjoy it. Having people to workout with makes me more motivated to go. And even though I have had good body image perception all along, I really feel like I am a little more comfortable in my own skin- not because I am skinnier or more muscular, (I’ve only been three times, remember?) but just because I am doing something for my body, and it’s loving me back for it.

I’m about to get a little personal, but this is pretty cool. Did you know that working out can help reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of PMS??? Yeah me neither! I felt way too good for what my calendar said I was supposed to be feeling like, so I looked it up and see what I found? Here (It’s number 3 on the list.) (I know that source is not the most reliable ever, but I also read similar ideas here) And if those aren’t enough, just let me tell you from first hand experience- I am a believer.

So I still kinda suck at working out, but I am trying! I feel more confident, less stressed, more bonded to my workout buddies, and I have less womanly annoyances. I should have done this a long time ago!

20130405-082511.jpg

Gardening the Imperfect Way

Image

Yesterday was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! To celebrate, (my boyfriend’s mom and my friend henceforce referred to     as-) Maternal Maven, (My dog hence force referred to as-) Theodore, and I worked on a garden. Maven and I had some experience, but Theodore was a complete novice, so we needed to show him the ropes. He is featured in the photo above inspecting soil quality.

So a few weeks ago, a very nice handyman crafted these raised beds for us. It took some very careful calculations (We looked where there were no shadows on the ground and plopped them down) to decide where in the yard to put them. Once the location was decided, we used a very high tech and fancy weed repellent paper to line the bottoms and keep out grass and other weeds .

1

After the cutting edge paper was added, we developed a drainage system that we felt was extremely efficient.

3

We carefully added (dumped the bags of) soil into the beds, and then began the tedious process of deciding where the seedlings should be placed (Mostly random)

4

We chose plants for a variety of reasons. We planted tomatoes, bell peppers, chives, sweet basil, and cilantro for cooking. We planted lavender because it smells delicious, and we took advantage of the shaded part of her yard with lettuce for fresh salads!

5

So far the plants look beautiful and happy. We’ll have to keep you posted as the season progresses.