Things Dog Moms Say

I know I’ve discussed this before, but there are a lot of things I say now on a regular basis that I never expected to come out of my mouth. I’d say a majority of those things come about because I am a dog mom. So, in honor of being a dog mom, here is a list of ten things I find myself saying every. single. day.

1. You’ve already pooped and peed, so you don’t actually NEED to go down to the yard. You just WANT to go down and find cat poop. And that’s gross so we’re not gonna do that.
2. What do you want?? USE YOUR WORDS!!!!
3. You’re a whiney pants, that’s what you are.
4. You nap whenever you want throughout the day, so when you want to go to sleep at night why don’t you just go? Why do I have to go to sleep too?
5. Just a minute, Meera. Yes, I know it’s your dinnertime, but you can wait five minutes. FIVE MINUTES, I SAID!!
6. Meera, come here. Come here, Meera. Meera? Meera, come here! COME HERE! Dog, don’t make me come after you!
7. I KNOW you can hear me!
8. You are making me look bad.
9. Ok, you can lay next to me as long as you let me sleep another hour. No, next to me. On this side! Oh alright fine, sit on my legs, just be still.
10. Why do you have to curl up and be sweet on the one tiny space of bed not covered by your dog blanket? Why?

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Top Ten Thursday – My dog might be smarter than me

Ok, maybe not all the time, but there are definitely days when I stare in wonder as Meera does something ingenious and I ask myself why I’ve been knocking things over and losing things all day long if my dog can figure out how to do whatever it is she just did.

She’s not solving the problems of the universe or anything, but when you consider the fact that she’s a DOG, it’s pretty intelligent.

For example:

1. We brought her two brand-new tennis balls from the States when we came back. These balls haven’t been used by any other dog and are straight out of the tube, so they don’t smell like dog or anything like that. They were in the bottom of a fully-packed suitcase. I walked into the living room one day and found her with her head half-buried under the contents of that suitcase, like she was bobbing for apples, and when she came up she had a bright yellow tennis ball proudly in her mouth. How did she find it????

2. We also brought her a giant-sized rawhide bone – and I mean like dinosaur-leg-sized – from my mother. She not only stole it from a suitcase and somehow got it down the stairs, but she propped it against the bed, jumped up first and then hauled it up behind her because she couldn’t jump with it in her mouth. Physics?? Really????

3. She knows I don’t let her eat foreign objects she finds in the yard, so instead of carrying them through the yard in front of me (sitting on the back stairs), she has started trying to carry them under the stairs so she goes behind me and I won’t see her. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a good try.

4. She likes to chew on empty plastic bottles, mostly for the noise. The problem, though, is that she doesn’t like them to have the tops on them. So, to solve this problem, she grabs the top-end and chews until the cap expands out and then she pulls it off. (Then she tries to eat pieces of the bottle. Not so smart.)

5. So, to solve this problem, we bought her an elephant plush toy that holds a bottle inside so that she can chew and get the noise but not be able to eat the plastic. It lasted two days before she found the velcro strip, pulled it open and removed the bottle.

BUT, there are also days when I wonder if she’s got a brain in her silly little head at all.

For instance:

6. She runs from everything. Dripping pipes, rustling tree branches, blowing curtains, squeaky doors… really anything that moves or makes noise. And I do mean┬áanything.

7. Sometimes she stands on our back porch and just barks at the world in general, for no reason at all. I think it’s the voices in her head.

8. We use her large kennel to block the stairs to the backyard so we can have the porch doors open but she can’t escape when I’m not looking. Today I pulled the kennel back from the opening and started down the stairs, expecting her to follow me, but she stood on the porch whining at me through the railing. I couldn’t figure out why until she started nosing at the kennel. She thought she was still blocked in! Matthew had to go back up to the porch and physically show her how to walk around it.

But I still love her anyway. Somehow. Despite all the afternoons when she drives me nuts and I can’t figure out what she wants from me. It’s those times when I wish she could talk… and then I’m always immediately glad she can’t. There are two primary reasons why I’m glad we got her when we did, even though she does create some extra stress at times.

9. First of all, she gives me something to look after during the day; she keeps me company and keeps me busy; she loves me more than Matthew and she proves that I can keep something alive for longer than two weeks.

10. Secondly, she reminds me on a daily basis why I’m glad we don’t have children right now.

What funny things does your dog do?

Super Seven Saturday

Wow, I’m not even sure where this Thursday went. Did we have one? I have absolutely no recollection of a Thursday this week at all. So I guess this is Top Ten Saturday; or, to keep with the whole same-letter thing I’ve got going on there, Super Seven Saturday.

So here we go – for this blog’s first even Super Seven Saturday, here are seven not-often-thought-about reasons why we are excited to be going home tonight. (The obvious ones are family, friends, the holidays, etc. but I feel like everyone knows those.)

1. It’s cold where we’re going. And not that that is particularly exciting – in fact we are scared to death, since the 73 degree low last night felt freezing to us – but it does mean that all the mosquitoes are dead, which is legitimate cause for dancing in the streets.
2. Christmas music will be playing on the radios and store speakers, and it won’t be the reggae version on steel drums either (which is just really weird).
3. We’ll get to sleep past 6:30! Yes, we love Meera to death and will miss her very much, but she’ll be having a blast in a big yard with a half dozen other dogs and we’ll get to sleep without a sudden wet nose in our faces very early in the morning.
4. I’ll finally be able to prove that I can physically get a tan! Granted, it’s not very much of one, but the fact that there is even the faintest color difference under my tank top straps is a big deal for me.
5. Home looks like Christmas. The Marriott is the only place I’ve seen a tree anywhere, and our old house is the only one I’ve ever seen with lights on it, although they are sad, droopy lights that have been there for years and no one can figure out how to turn them on. Or take them down.
6. We’ll get to pass out the awesomely cool, tropically-inspired gifts we’re bringing back. You’d be surprised the sorts of things people can make from a coconut. ­čśë
7. We’re going to get three whole weeks where we don’t have to worry about if the car is going to start, if it’s going to stay running, if something is going to fall off or if it is going to stop fast enough. We won’t have people zooming around playing chicken with oncoming traffic until they can slip three-wide back into their lane. We won’t have people stopping in the middle of the road, holding up long lines of traffic to have personal conversations with their friends. However, we will have to remember to drive on the right side of the road. And we haven’t seen a traffic light in eight months, so that could be interesting too.

What do you look forward to most when you’ve been away from home for a long time?

Top Ten (Friday) – Ten things I want to tell people when they say, “Oh you’re living in the Caribbean? That’s like an awesome vacation every day!”

Don’t ever say that. Ever. Really. I may hurt you.

Yes, I can see how a Caribbean cruise would be fun. Even spending a week on an exotic island, basking in the sun and sleeping on posh beds in a nice hotel with an ocean view. But it drives me CRAZY when people tell me that I’m just on a really long vacation. Visiting a place like this and living full-time in a place like this are two completely different things. The main tourist attractions may be pretty and shiny and exciting, but this is still a third-world country and when you get down to the nitty-gritty aspects of everyday life, it’s not as shiny as you thought. Here are ten things I want you to think about the next time you feel the urge to tell me I’m on vacation.

1. I pay 17% tax on everything – groceries, restaurants, clothing, trinkets, household items… Literally everything. And that’s in addition to the 12% service charge at any establishment with “customer service,” which, no, is not the server’s tip. That’s extra. And it’s not just for my one-week stay; that’s every day for two and a half years.
2. When was the last time you got an electric bill? Beginning of this month? That must be nice. We still haven’t gotten any bills from September. Electric bills are 4-5 months behind, and when they come in they are a bulk sum for several months, due in full immediately or they shut your services off. And another thing, how much was your bill? Try having $300-400 a month (for a one bedroom apartment) for five months all due at once.
3. People seem to think I live on the beach. I haven’t been to the beach in months. It gets old really, really fast, I assure you. You can only do a thing over and over again so many times before it loses all significance and becomes a chore.
4. The last time you went to the grocery store, did someone ask you how you were doing? Did they offer to help you find something? Did the cashier smile, make small talk, or even tell you your bill total? Lucky. The last time I went to the grocery store (and actually every time I’ve been to the grocery store for a long time) the clerk I asked for assistance looked me up and down and continued the conversation she was having with a friend. The cashier snatched my shopper’s card from me, did not respond when I said hello, and then held her hand out for my payment without telling me my total and seemed exasperated when I asked how much I owed. That’s normal. It happens everywhere. You get used to it.
5. You have to count your items when you start to leave a grocery store, not because you may have left one on the counter, but because sometimes the person you thought was a bagger wasn’t a bagger at all, but a local townsperson picking through your groceries and bagging what she wants for herself and walking off with it, leaving you the rest. It’s happened before.
6. We have several problems with our car right now, including fuel pump issues and a bent rear wheel that wobbles when we drive. People from home tell me, “just take it to a repair shop and they can fix that sort of thing quickly.” But what you don’t understand is that there is no such thing as a real repair shop here. There are men with “shops” on the side of the road and in back alleys who work on cars, some of whom are pretty well recommended but many of which pop up overnight. There is a dealership that does repairs, but only on certain items on certain types of cars, and of you don’t fit that criteria you’re out of luck. And no matter where you take your car, you are not going to get it back quickly. So we prioritize, or, in other words, we drive it until it will go no more, then we worry about the repairs.
7. Do you have free access to your bank account? Do you have a debit or credit card with your name on it that you can use anywhere? That must be nice. I don’t have access to anything because I’m not a student – and therefore not as important – and I can’t jump through the ridiculous hoops to fulfill the bank’s other requirements (a letter from a doctor or lawyer to show my upstanding character, a letter from our previous bank detailing the type and number of my monthly transactions and average balance, an account record of two years or more with the same institution, and a long list of other things). So I have to use Matthew’s card and hope no one contests me and have any money I might make made out to him, since I wouldn’t be able to cash or deposit a check with my name on it.
8. There is nothing for children here. Nothing. Granted, we don’t have children of our own, but I am a nanny for two toddlers and there is nothing for them to do here. No parks or playgrounds, no public walking tracks, no children’s centers and few houses with suitable yards. When was the last time your kids got to go play outside? Did you take them to the playground? Did you turn them lose in your yard so they could work off some energy while you took a few moments of peace to drink your coffee and make a grocery list? Kids can’t do that here, so obviously this is not a good permanent-vacation spot for you.
9. Tourist stuff is great when you’re a tourist looking for “I heart St. Kitts” T-shirts or beach shorts, novelty shot glasses, key chains or Christmas ornaments, but when you’re living here full-time and just want a new pair of pants, it’s incredibly annoying. I haven’t found a store here yet that sells normal clothes for normal, everyday people. I guess the true locals must get clothing somewhere, but I have yet to find it (and people here seem to have missed the memo that the ’80s are over, anyway). Everyone I ask just tells me to order online from Target and wait until I get home to try it on.
10. Did you work hard for a degree and a job? Did you jump through all the appropriate hoops, climb all the acceptable stairs and pass through the conventional doors to get an adult career? So did I. And now I’m a babysitter, like I’m back in high school working for extra spending money so I could go to the movies on the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I love Thing 1 and Thing 2 (usually) and I’m grateful to be bringing in a bit of money, but it does create a bit of an identity crisis. I am an adult and I want to be treated like a grown woman with a family of my own – an equal with the parents and on a first-name basis. Yet I’m working an adolescent job, something young adults back home would do for free as a favor to friends and that only teenage girls get paid for, so that makes me feel like I have to be “Mr. H this” and “Mrs. H that” and be younger and subservient all the time, which in turn leads them to treat me like a teenage babysitter rather than a grown woman. I really haven’t figured out how to resolve that yet. Suggestions?

Anyway, just thought I would provide some food for thought on this particular topic, especially since we’re about to head home for the holidays and I’m sure I’ll encounter this statement many times before we return. Feel free to pass this along and maybe save me some of the explaining time.

Top Ten Thursday – Things to be thankful for on the day after Thanksgiving

So yesterday was the first Thanksgiving that the Mister and I have ever spent away from family, and it was definitely atypical, but a wonderful sort of atypical. I spent the morning and early afternoon babysitting Thing 1 and Thing 2, cradling Thing 2’s warm baby softness on my hip more than usual because he wasn’t feeling well. Then I came home and cooked my corn bread casserole in a frenzy, hopping up and down to make the oven cook faster (because that totally works) and sending the Mister on a classic whirlwind dash to the grocery store after the first cornbread mix I opened was, umm… shall we say, not alone?

Anyway. OISK.

It turned out wonderfully, coming out of the oven piping hot just in time to wrap it in blankets and carry it across the island (funny how, here, going literally across the country on a daily basis is normal) for our potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner with our island family. I also made spiced holiday cider, which was well-received despite the group’s initial disappointment about its lack of alcohol.

We are always thankful for each other, for friends and family back home and for the blessings that allow us to be independent. However, since this list is a day late, I’m going to assume you know about all those obvious things and instead focus on the things we are thankful for on this day AFTER Thanksgiving.

1. Meera has not thrown up in the house, even though her belly is full of the rubber duckies she sent to their dooms while we were gone yesterday.
2. Our roommates made more food for their island dinner than we did and have graciously offered to share their leftovers.
3. We have a wonderful island family to be able to share important moments with. We are forever thankful for having such a solid foundation here, even when we’re all so far from home.
4. We get the keys to our new apartment tomorrow afternoon!
5. We head back to the United States two weeks from tomorrow!
6. I don’t have to worry about the temptation to venture out on Black Friday and spend a ridiculous amount of money because stores here have never heard of such a thing.
7. The Mister fulfilled his agreement to do well on at least three of his last four exams, so we are celebrating tonight by having dinner at the Marriott and hopefully seeing Catching Fire in theaters for the second time.
8. A beautiful sunshiney day with a good amount of breeze, and the hope that I won’t be covered in a sheen of sweat by the time I’m done packing without air conditioning.
9. The fact that a half-dozen people told me my corn pudding and cider were wonderful last night and asked for my recipe. One of the highest compliments a southern woman can get, and it rarely happens, so I’m reveling in it. ­čÖé
10. The fact that this blog has spread wider and become more popular than I ever thought it would, thanks to referrals by viewers like you (cue PBS sponsor music). But seriously, thank you for all your support over the last two years, and I look forward to entertaining you long into the future.

[Oh, and in case you want those recipes, here they are below. :)]
Corn bread casserole : I’ve found that cooking on 350 for 45 minutes leaves the inside too gooey, so I would say either leave it in a little longer or cook on 375 instead. Just make sure you can scoop a little out and it’s fairly solid in the middle.

Spiced holiday cider : For those who were at the dinner last night, I used only about a cup of pineapple juice because I ran out, so it’ll probably be a bit more punch-y if you want to use the full amount.

And now, for the Christmas music! Happy holiday season everybody.

Top Ten Thursday – The Brighter Side

Well since my earlier post this week was on such a negative slant, I figured I should probably do something more positive for this week’s Top Ten list. So here is a list of my top ten favorite Caribbean sensations.

1. The rush of cool air as you stand outside and watch a storm blow in from the sea, slowly advancing toward the yard, gradually hiding the pastel-painted houses and tossing palm trees behind a curtain of solid white water.

2. The moment when the sun first dips behind the peak of the mountain behind the house at about 3:30ish every afternoon, when the shadows finally rest in the corners of the yard and everything breathes a sigh of relief that the temperature just dropped ten degrees.

3. The out-of-body feeling of standing on the front stairs watching monkeys run along the fence line and pick seed pods from the trees hanging over the yard. Even better when a few baby monkey screeches become a normal part of your morning.

4. That first shiver when you stick your feet into a cold swimming pool (or step into a cold shower) on a scorching day and wonder if you really want to get in, and then you just do it anyway before you melt.

5. The surprise of climbing down a hillside to a beach that disappointingly looks like it’s covered in trash, and then looking down to realize you’re surrounded by sparkling sea glass.

6. The feeling of isolation when you find a secluded or forgotten beach, leaving you alone with the crashing of the ocean and whatever treasures have made their home along the shoreline.

7. The cool of the night air in the wee hours of the morning when the puppy sometimes has to pee too early, when I’m the only one around to watch the palm trees sway in the breeze and the moonlight bounce off the Atlantic and dance across the candy-colored roofs of a dozen Caribbean houses.

8. The feeling of standing alone at sunrise, in a living room that hasn’t yet become hot, watching the puppy explore the yard in the first light of morning as the clouds over the ocean start to turn pink.

9. The shock of driving along the highway at night and glancing out the window to see a giant, sparkling birthday cake illuminating half the island as a colossal cruise ship pulls slowly away from the dock and takes its passengers to other places unknown.

10. The creak of the gate in the evening when the boys get home from school, and the swish of the puppy’s tail as she runs to the railing to make sure it’s daddy before dashing down the stairs to greet him and get a belly rub on the sidewalk.

Top Ten Thursday – A Crash Course in Toddlers

I recently started babysitting for an Australian family here on the island and I’ve been at their house a lot this week. The girl, who I’ll call Thing 1, is 3 years old and the boy, Thing 2, is 18 months. Thing 1’s little Aussie accent kills me every time she asks me for a “biscuit” (a cookie) or tells me that her “nappie” (diaper, she wears one during naps) is wet. They love to go out “scooting” (on their scooters, obviously. I had to have that one explained to me and I don’t think we have a word for that in American English), but Thing 1’s favorite thing is to wear my “thongs” (flip flops! The first time she asked if she could wear them I had to stop and really think about what she was pointing to before I started laughing.)

Thing 1 has the Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar memorized, and I love when she and her brother sit in the floor together and she names the foods that he points to. Precious beyond words. But then ten minutes later she steals his truck and he bonks her on the head and the atmosphere changes dramatically. (Reminds me of me and my brother, actually, and I can practically see my mother laughing as she reads this.)

Which brings me to the Top Ten things I’ve learned about toddlers and about living with toddlers in the last 48 hours.

1. We can watch the same movie every day for a week and it doesn’t get old. In fact, if I sit on the couch with them but play Solitaire on my iPad because I’ve seen Ice Age twice this week already, Thing 1 tells me to “turn that thing off and pay attention!” (I mean, Ice Age, come on! If we’re going to watch something over and over at least let it be a good Disney movie so I can be hilariously entertaining by singing all the songs in different voices.)
2. I’ve watched infants who spit up their baby food and older kids who are completely independent, but the ages in between are impossible to feed. How do you get a child to eat anything when they are old enough to insist on feeding themselves but young enough that they refuse to sit still and eat what you give them? As their father said to me last night, “We’ve resorted to just feeding Thing 2 like he’s a caged animal.”
3. The smallest things can avoid a temper tantrum. Producing a second toy, helping one cook in the pretend kitchen while the other sets the tiny table, or even twirling around in circles and making funny noises can make them forget why they were about to start screaming. But once the screaming starts full blast, I am still at a complete loss on how to stop it. (If they were my kids I’d snatch them up and swat them. But they aren’t, so I can’t.)
4. Parents should never be home at the same time as the babysitter. First of all, it makes me feel like I’m completely incompetent because nothing I do works and Dad has to come out of his office to help; and secondly, the kids know you’re there and don’t want anything to do with me. Or they intentionally work to make me look incompetent, I haven’t really figured out which.
5. The most well-behaved angels during the day can still turn into toy-stealing, sister-bonking, pushing, crying, tattling creatures at about 30 minutes to bedtime.
6. Little kids sleep a lot. Two-hour afternoon naps and then bedtime at 7 for Thing 2 and 7:30 for Thing 1. I haven’t stayed with them in the morning yet, but I’m sort of hoping they take morning naps too because tomorrow (Thursday, so probably as you are reading this) I’ll be here from 7:30 a.m. to lunchtime. I’m sure naptimes are when parents actually get things done, but I’m scared to do anything for fear of waking them up!
7. They will never want to do what you want to do. If I want to play with the kitchen, they want to race cars across the living room floor. If I want to build a tower, they want to have a tea party. Etc etc.
8. Thing 1 will antagonize her brother for no reason at all. Simply to do it, I suppose. (Which, again, I probably still do to my brother.)
9. But then they can turn around and be such sweet siblings. Thing 1 will run to take Dog to Thing 2 when he forgets it. Thing 2 will retrieve a ball that rolled away from Thing 1 and give it back. They will hug and snuggle and Thing 2 will sit in Thing 1’s lap and it’s all very adorable. Until the next change in the winds….
10. There really is no good way to have multiple children. If they are too close together they cause more chaos; farther apart makes one able to help watch the other. BUT, too far apart means they don’t nap at the same times and you don’t get this lovely block of silence in the middle of your day, and it takes you longer to have them all (and then, on the flip side, to get them all out of the house).

I’ve been around lots of children and I’m pretty good with them, but I suppose you can never be expected to know how to handle everything until you have them for yourself.

Do you have any suggestions on how to entertain small children inside the house? Ways to calm screaming meltdowns? What about just funny words your kids made up when they were little?