It’s kind of like when the reality sinks in after having children that life really will never be the same.

I sort of love my dog. Sort of. I found that my feelings toward her swung more into the “love” direction once she stopped taking dumps on my living room carpet. But we’re still in the “sort of” category because she recently chewed a rather large and noticeable hole in my sofa cushion. This officially makes three chewed places, and of course they’re on three different piece of furniture.

Our backyard, however. Oy.

Most dogs are content to wear a few paths, pick out a special place to do their business thus killing the grass, maybe dig a hole or two. Tula has done all of these and then some. She has completely dug out our landscape rock and torn up the weed guard beneath it. All of it. John is worried that our grass, which has been perpetually soggy since November, won’t recover from her stomping all over it. The backyard used to be our refuge of beauty. Now, to hear John tell it, it sounds like it will need nothing less than a complete overhaul… which neither of us really want to do. At least she has not chewed any siding off the house as my friend’s dog once did. Yet.

I rather expected these changes. But it has been quite an adjustment. Last summer and fall Tula was still so much a puppy. If we went to the back yard to play, she would completely spaz out, and jump all over the girls… to the point it wasn’t fun to play because we were too busy rescuing the girls from her. I worry, I really worry, that if she doesn’t calm down a bit, we will end up surrendering the backyard completely over to her… and that’ not a sacrifice I want to make.

I’m willing to–and have committed to–share my space with her… This spring we’ll have to figure out a way to take the backyard back, at least part of it anyway.

She’s a good girl. Sort of.

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No IEP for LMG.

In October I mentioned that LMG has been having some struggles in school, and we agreed to allow her school to test her for a learning disability(s). In December we met to discuss the result of those tests, and they all came back negative, which is a big relief. However, that does not change the fact that she really struggles in certain subject areas, particularly math. We will have to buckle down and continue to try to find ways that work best for her.

In a nutshell, she is young for her grade–one of the youngest in her class–and at her age months really DO matter a great deal developmentally.This is one of those times I wish we would have had a crystal ball and could have foreseen these struggles… perhaps we should have waited and let her start kindergarten when she turned six instead of five. But we didn’t know…

I know that she will be fine in the long run. Okay, let me rephrase that to be more honest: I believe, and I hope and pray, that she will be okay in the long run. But in my mind, part of being okay is for her to have a positive school experience… I want very much for her to like school. I hate that she has to struggle so much at the beginning of the school year just to barely keep up with what the other kids are able to do. It shakes her confidence. John and I can see it, and we are always looking for ways to build up her self esteem and to stave off discouragement. And to be perfectly honest, that all sounds nice, but it is not an easy thing to do, day in and day out, when it takes an hour (sometimes longer) just to do five or six math problems (Not to mention reading and spelling homework. Next year science and social studies will be added into the homework mix.).

I struggle to find that careful balance in the messages I send her about school. As a teacher I know how important these early years of school are, but as a mother I don’t think it’s wise to let academics be all-consuming either. On one hand, I want her to know how important school is so that she will take it seriously and put in a good effort. The past couple of weeks she has been very resistant to making a good effort, and that concerns me because that is what she has to do in order to get okay grades. Some kids don’t have to try all that hard to get very good grades. LMG is not one of them… at least not yet. On the other hand, I don’t want to send the message that school is so important that her struggles are a reflection upon her and how she should feel about herself.

It’s a complicated balance… and sometimes I think it’s better to balance it one day at a time. To set the tone according to what she needs that day rather than to repeat the same “right thing to say” about effort and school over and over. I just hope that I’m not wrong about my approach. I hope we’re doing the right things for her. I just want to do what’s best for her.

Anybody got a crystal ball I can borrow?

Little nuggets of golden fried happiness

I have to admit, that I’m a bit nervous about the post, because the last time I criticized a major corporation, they totally called me out on it, and I fah-REEKED about it. The issue was, however, resolved in a satisfactory manner.

For that reason, though, I’m going to avoid using proper nouns or slogans, but I’m sure you might recognize this packaging and/or logo.

I’m equal parts amused and disturbed by this. Have you seen this?

According to this package, the reason why this product is an “excellent source of happiness” is NOT just because “your mouth…gets to taste” this delicious, crispy product. Oh, nooooo… It’s because that cute, little, not-at-all-realistic, TOY chicken gets to be “all wrapped in a crispy, golden coat.” See? Everybody wins!

[Just never you worry your pretty little head how the actual nugget gets that crispy, golden coat.]

One has to wonder why they even felt the need to broach the subject of how this particular food product is made, particularly since the product and portion is geared specifically toward young children. But if you ask me, this packaging is hilarious. That toy chicken is so darn cute. And the fact that its back is turned to the sack of flour, to me, is a sure sign of either: denial-“They’d never do that to me. I am made of wood after all”; or unsuspecting naivete-“They’d never actually feed questionable substances to people on a massive scale. I am made of wood after all.”

I can’t help but wonder if this is why my three year-old is under the mistaken impression that “Only real chickens live in barns, not [she says emphatically] the ones that we eat.”

I teach the novel Animal Farm to my freshman classes, and I teach it as political/historical allegory to the Russian Revolution. One of my favorite lessons to teach all year is the 3 day mini-lesson on propaganda. We first focus on wartime propaganda, and then, to make the point that we are all susceptible to influence, we spend a day talking about present-day advertising and marketing. This little sample never fails to bring the point home.