You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

When Leo was a puppy, he needed to be taught how to do everything from coming when called, to relieving himself outside, to learning that if food was left on a table or counter that it was not an invitation for him to help himself!  At some point, he learned, or used his instincts to help him retrieve objects when thrown – tennis balls, sticks, you name it, he would chase the soaring item and sure enough, bring it right back to whoever initiated the “game.”

At nine years old, Leo, a beautiful Golden Retriever who prances when walking (perhaps due to his father’s famous show dog lineage) has shifted his approach to retrieving.  Yes, he will still occasionally be enthused by the stick throwing routine, but these days, Leo has his sights set on a much more creative approach to play.

Instead of waiting for an object to be thrown and then capturing it, Leo initiates a whole new approach to fun.  Most mornings, he can be found racing through the Swift River trails en route to a quieter open space where there is a sandy spot that has easy access to a slower moving part of the river.  Upon closer view, one will notice that Leo is actually surveying the shallow waters and then hand, or paw-selecting a river rock.

Sometimes the transaction is seamless, and he is able to secure the rock in his mouth before bringing it up to higher ground, proudly dropping it near our feet and going back for more.  Other times, Leo may choose a rock that is too big for his mouth span and he will relentlessly try to capture it, nudging it with his nose – usually heading in the wrong direction away from the shore – whining at it and if really frustrated, barking profusely.  I am in awe of the whole fascinating process!  The fruits of his labor have been collecting over these summer weeks and he now has garnered quite a river rock garden!

As I wonder at how amazing Leo’s new development has been to observe, I am reminded that an old dog can learn new tricks!  Taking a page out of Leo’s book, and with the guidance of many writing legends – past and present – I am creating this blog to have a place to share my life moments – immense or miniscule – of any size.  It is here that I am committing to living a writerly life so that I can be a more authentic teacher of writing for my fourth grade students.  Cheers to all teachers as we get closer to the new school year ahead on the horizon.

 

 

Dreams

Dreams.

How is it that they decide to be yours?

Sometimes a dream can be such a vivid picture. Other times, a fleeting blur of an image.

In the moment, I’m all in. As if I’m an active participant. My favorite kind are the ones that give me a warm and fuzzy, safe feeling.

Does my mind know when I need these to help comfort me, ground me?

Going to bed last night, I knew today was going to be the last day of the challenge. I can’t help but wonder if my dreams helped to inform me of my focus.

In a time when so much is out of our control, perhaps we can lean into our dreams.

Dream big, friends and have hope.

After all, isn’t life a dream?

Chores

Jackson is on daily dishwasher duty.

Early bird unfortunately gets the worm!

Abigail sets the table for dinner.

Caroline is the beloved Vacuum Queen!

They share the dreaded laundry responsibility.

Both girls bake sweet treats regularly.

24

Heading south, 24 is the route that leads me back to my hometown of Bristol, Rhode Island.

It’s also the route that guides me north toward Boston so that I can recharge in the White Mountains.

When school’s in session, Route 24 saves me some time in the morning when I travel on it for an exit or two.

June 24th is the date my parents said “I do.”

August 24th is a celebration of my mother and her grand entrance into this world.

24 was the very first jersey number that Jackson picked way back when he started playing ice hockey as a squirt. With a few exceptions, it’s been his number ever since.

Keeping it in the family, 24 is the number Caroline selected when she began her ice hockey career at the start of the winter season.

There are 24 hours in each day. I used to think that there weren’t enough hours in the day. Our current quarantine has afforded me the opportunity to bend my perspective a bit.

 

 

Uninvited Guest

I caught a glimpse of movement.

He popped his head out high.

I shrieked, jumped, and shouted, “Help!”

Time was running out for cleverness.

Stunned by spraying Method glass cleaner.

He was escorted out the door.

 

This 6 by 6 was inspired by fellow slicer, Chris Margocs, and her submission, “Need to Get a Grip.”

What’s for Breakfast?

Earlier this week, I invited students to write me a Friendly Letter describing a typical learning day at home.

Yesterday, C sent me her virtual letter and shared that every day, a different person in her family is responsible for making breakfast. Even her youngest sister is in charge of pancakes with her dad as a sous chef! She offered wonderful details, like her mom’s choice of preparing rice and beans being her favorite, making me feel like I was sitting in her kitchen waiting for a plate of the breakfast special! Opportunities for cooking. Priceless.

Reading C’s letter got me thinking. In our house, each person makes his own breakfast during weekdays as we are on different schedules and have varied preferences to start our days. All bets are off on weekends as we have the luxury of time in the morning and the desire to indulge a little. If we applied the same structure as C’s family, I started wondering what each person would make. What would be each signature dish?

Jackson is easy. He loves pancakes – plain with lots of syrup. He’d need help making them the first time, but after that would be on auto-pilot. If no help was allowed, he’d resort to making scrambled eggs and serve them with ham and cheese on toasted english muffins. He’d also make a mess. Look out clean-up crew!

Abigail craves sweet bread french toast. She definitely prefers to have them made for her and is sure to add syrup and powdered sugar. Recently, we discovered that sliced vienna bread is a close second to sweet bread! Left to her own devices, she’d probably make fruit-based smoothies for everyone.

Caroline enjoys making chocolate chip banana bread. Her last one was so moist and delicious! We have a few bananas that are perfect for mashing, so I expect her to make another loaf very soon! If asked what she would prefer for breakfast, it would be cinnamon rolls. While we’ve been experimenting with using yeast to make them from scratch, her favorite is still using the Jiffy mix and softened cream cheese!

Heading into the weekend, I’m now wondering what’s for breakfast?

Refrigerator Puzzle

On a good day, our side by side refrigerator mostly meets our needs.

Right now, said fridge is a little more than taxed.

I should add that over the summer, we disposed of our broken basement fridge during a dumpster purge and haven’t replaced that extra space.

Limited supermarket runs mean that when we do go, we are purchasing a greater volume each visit.

Baking and cooking experiments are filling parts of the day and end products are taking valuable, unusual space.

Cooking and ordering larger quantities means more leftovers in containers of varying shapes and sizes.

Fitting things in isn’t the problem, though, thanks to a clever husband with an engineering background.

It’s the fact that the items in the fridge are playing a game of musical chairs and the teenagers, especially the male one, are struggling to find the spot where the items land.

“Why can’t we just put things back where they belong?” he quips.

Pro-tip for those who are challenged by change – be flexible, be kind, and know that all will be well.

Even in the refrigerator puzzle.

Sugar Bowl

It’s funny how a memory moment for a character in a novel can conjure up memories in a reader’s past.

After taking the advice I so often give my student readers when seeking the next book on deck, I read the review of a favorite author and selected a new story to explore.

My character, Holly, is old beyond her years, feeling the pull of responsibility for her mother and the well-being of two young boys who live next door with their father, a widower. She struggles with feelings of inadequacy and lack of experience.

Holly recounts a vivid memory of attempting to pass the sugar bowl at the dinner table, failing miserably because her hands were wet. The sugar bowl, her mother’s prized possession, falls to the ground and the handle breaks off, scarring both Holly and her mother in more ways than one.

While my own memory isn’t as clear, I too, had a run in with a sugar bowl at an even younger age. I was helping my mother prepare for a house party where she and my father would be entertaining some friends. I am told that I was running to the table with the bowl and must have lost my footing. I fell and the sugar bowl came with me, forming a jagged edge and leaving a physical scar on my knee that lives with me to this day.

 

 

 

Dear Momma – One More Thing

March 24, 2020

Dear Momma,

I’m ready. I’m resting my head on your lap. Nudging your arms with my snout.

Do you see me?

You’ve been sitting at the back table tapping your fingers like they are dancing. Sometimes it looks like you might be in a race!

One more thing.

Your feet aren’t ready. Those fuzzy things won’t keep you warm when we go outside.

Shoes. That’s what you need.

Please, pretty please, will you sit on the steps and put your shoes on?

Oh good. You are sitting and taking off the fuzzies.

It’s cold out there. I know because I’ve already been out in the back yard a few times.

One more thing.

Coat. The long blue one with the bright orange fur.

I hope you grab that one to stay warm and dry!

Phew! You read my mind.

One more thing.

Gloves.

Don’t forget them!

You will end up hiding your hands inside your coat to keep them from freezing.

One more thing.

Leash. I see it hanging on the hook.

You go to grab it, but then you place it next to me.

What’s going on?

I know I don’t love the gentle lead, but you need to put it on me, not next to me.

One more thing.

You open the door to the basement.

Where are you going?

I hear Jackson add sarcastically, “You might want to go take a nap while you wait.”

But I’ve been waiting. Patiently, I might add.

I hear the dryer door open, then close. Quick footsteps getting louder.

Finally, you are back!

Let’s go!

One more thing.

You grab some crinkly white things and put them in your coat.

You ask me to sit while you put my leash on my neck.

I look outside and see giant white dots falling from the sky.

This is one more thing that I don’t mind.

Signing off with love,

Leo

 

Party of Five

Over the weekend, we all took a well-needed break from distance learning and working.

Our Party of Five chose to pack a blanket, pick up pizzas, and dine amidst the snap, crackle and pop of the waves crashing at the shore of East Beach in Westport, MA. The beauty of this chilling culinary experience was that we could include our fur baby , Leo as our plus one.

We made a couple of stops along the way, most notable our drive-up visit to Gramma Sukey who has been self-isolating in her home most likely curled up with a stack of mystery and history books. She was so excited to open her door, stand on her porch, and have a face to face conversation with our Party of Five at a safe more than six foot distance apart.

Our Party of Five perused movie titles and voted to watch Casino Royale when we returned home. Reader, I have to tell you that the last James Bond movie I watched was in the theater, and I am ashamed to admit that I found myself nodding off throughout its playing. Fortunately for my family and me, that was most definitely not the case with this edition! Daniel Craig is equal parts skilled, resilient, handsome, and human and we all remained engaged in the plot as it twisted and turned even when we thought nothing more could surprise us. If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching this movie, this Party of Five gives it 5 stars, one from each of us!

Yesterday, our Party of Five stayed extremely local, spreading out in our yard to enjoy the sun and continue working on the spring cleaning sprucing that has been ongoing. We cleared leaves from areas that haven’t been touched since we moved in over 20 years ago and others that have been sporadically neglected due to lack of time. The kids raked, moved large branches to the back of the yard, rebuilt a stone edging around the back garden, and swept the patio and surrounding walkways among other things. When not directing our child labor, my husband and I found ourselves pitching in by clipping limbs that were overgrown and hand-cleaning the row of boxwood plagued by leaf deposits. Our yard is going to look amazing come summer!

It’s now Monday and this Party of Five is back to business. Our goals today will vary and we’ll convene as one for dinner later tonight.