Meet Libby

Our family has grown again. First there were dogs, then there were kids, then there were chickens. Now we are back to adding a sweet dog, Libby Jane. Here’s what we have learned about her in the short week she has been with us.

1. She’s already Jamie’s girl. He learned about Libby when a friend sent him her picture and information from an animal shelter in Montgomery County. He drove up there to meet her and, of course, fell in love immediately. She came home with him that afternoon and has followed him around ever since. When he leaves for work, she paces through the house frantically searching for him. Already, there’s a whole lot of love. 

2. She’s a snuggler. Despite her 60+ pounds, she thinks she’s a lap dog and will lay on top of you while you relax on the sofa.  

3. Which reminds me, I had planned to keep her off the sofa completely. You know that dog smell that gets in the cushions and the way the fabric rips with time? I was hoping to avoid that all together and train her that the sofa was off limits. This is how that is going:


4. She loves to be outside. We spent our first evening watching her fetch tennis balls and race through the yard with the boys.

 Then she took an interest in the chickens, running round and round the coop. Eventually she pawed at the chicken wire and very quickly pushed the caging up enough to get into the coop. Mayhem erupted. Feathers flew. Screams echoed. Libby cornered and pinned one of the chickens, but Jamie got into the coop to grab her just as I opened the door so the chickens could all escape. In the end, the chickens survived unscathed. But they have lost some freedom until we Libby proof their run.  

5. She’s an expert at sneaking food off the table. Recently, I left my toast unattended for a few seconds. When I returned, the plate was empty and she was gobbling down my breakfast.  

6. There’s a lot of puppy still in her. Our house is the perfect treasure trove of random plastic bite-sized toys. She has found fifty percent of them and chewed them into a plastic pulp. In a few more days, my house should be less cluttered as we lose the other fifty percent to her teeth. 

7. I’ve always heard that dogs will not poop in their crates. I just want to clarify that this is a falsehood, folks.  I’ll spare you the picture. 

8. The last week has brought an intense wave of poop and pee into my life. A lot of it is not exactly her fault. We had to take her to the vet for an ear infection and learned that she has probably had a severe infection for most of her life. She’s on a host of medicines to resolve this issue, one of them being prednisone, which makes her have to potty quite frequently. Hopefully her ears will be healed up soon and she’ll progress toward peeing in the grass instead of the basement floor.  

9. Life just got a whole lot more messy and crazy at our house. I didn’t think that was even possible. Yet, I’m fairly certain it will all be worth it, for we are quite smitten with our Libby.

Las Vegas and Pick Pockets

I promised myself I would run a marathon after each baby was born. It was a promise I would keep. Thirteen months after Jackson was born, I ran the Ridge to Bridge Marathon in North Carolina. Sixteen months after Parker was born I ran the Huntsville Marathon in Alabama with Jamie. These races were an attempt to reclaim a part of my life that fell away during my pregnancies. I was hoping to remember who I was, to restore my identity.

I first became a runner soon after Jamie and I were married.  I glean tremendous joy from chosing a race, training for it, and then putting myself to the test on race day. It provides a great opportunity for obsessive compulsive micromanaging, which control freaks such as myself enjoy. I’ve been getting ready for the Las Vegas Half Marathon since way back in March. Most of that time was just me thinking about the race, registering, and buying a plane ticket. It was not until September that the hard work started.  

Consistent running has been difficult for me for years. I’ve struggled with it since my children were born and it went from bad to worse after my thyroidectomy last Decemeber. I’ve been tired; I’ve been overwhelmed; I’ve not been myself.  

All of that changed right before my 34th birthday. I found my groove and have steadily plugged away at three runs a week getting ready for this race. My runs have been far from excellent. I’ve started out too fast on long runs and struggled horrifically during the last few miles. I’ve had achey lungs, I’ve plodded, I’ve walked, I’ve complained, most often to Jamie but also to my friend and running partner, Mike.  

A fews weeks back I was having one of those runs that are characterized by too many beers the night before. As Mike and I shuffled down the Greenway, I explained my latest epiphany: it seems that runners must, in some way, like to torture themselves. When we are pushing our limit in pace or distance, it hurts. When we are unprepared, we are miserable. Sometimes it’s the conditions that get the best of us – the heat, the rain, the wind. There is physical pain. There is mental warfare. There is struggle. Yet, I keep coming right back to it.  

Why? 

Running is very much like living. It’s an endurance event. There are long hills we climb and summit. At the top, we stand proudly taking in the beautiful view we are so fortunate to behold. We recognize the effort that went into it all. We are in awe of what was possible on that day – of all that our eyes saw, of strength and ability, of the fine people we’ve shared it all with. Running and life both hold the promise of amazement. 

Then again, there are the moments we struggle through it all. We can’t gain any traction. We are exhausted. We are hurting. We feel like despite all our effort, we are getting no where, making little progress. We fail at an endeavor and grieve what never was. Running and life both hold the promise of hardship.

Yet we go forth. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other. We hold onto the hope that the struggle is worth it – that all the good stuff is still out there somewhere, even if we can’t quite see it right now.

Last Friday, when I set out for Las Vegas with two of my sisters, we arrived at the airport in Greensboro and were immediately bumped to a flight that would get us to Las Vegas EARLIER than our original flight.  What?  That never happens!  Then the gate employee gave us three tickets for a free adult beverage.  We were flying high.  All was well.  

Six hours later we landed in Vegas.  Somewhere between getting off the plane and arriving at the rental car depot, my wallet was lost or stolen.  The night plummeted hard and fast.

I first thought I could have left it on the plane.  I had purchased a pair of headphones, so I was certain I’d had it on the flight.  I back tracked to the Delta ticket counter hoping someone had found it on the plane and turned it in.  There was no such luck.  It was no where to be found.  St. Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes, had far more dire events to attend to.  

My stomach was in knots. Here I was in Vegas with no identification and no money.  The cash I brought with me was gone forever by now. Things were going horribly awry. 

I sat on a bench stewing over it all while I waited for my sisters to pick me up outside the airport. With some time, I realized life will go on, with or without my wallet.  The half marathon on Sunday will go on.  I am well.  We are safe.  It could all be so much worse.

Running and life are a mixed bag. They are candy and cavities, summer and sunburn, Vegas and pick pockets.  Through the highs and the lows we will keep on moving. 

 We will endure.  

This is all I am sure of.

Now, I’m off to spend other people’s money. Thank goodness for sisters. I promise I’ll pay you all back, if I can just get back home without my I.D. 

Mama Tried

Jamie brought “The New Bear at School” home from the library one recent evening. As the days passed, we read it a few dozen times right before bedtime. 

It is the story of a new bear named Boris who encounters all kinds of problems when he starts going to a new school. He accidentally shreds his homework with his claws, he scares his classmates with his booming bear voice, and his tiny desk shatters beneath him as he tries to sit down in it.   

When all the animals gather to play inside the classroom, Boris finds that there is no space in the small circle for him. Tears run down his cheeks as he plays all alone. As I read this part to my boys, I felt the teacher within me rising up.

I was not thinking about whether my kids know all the letters and their sounds or whether they can recall events in a story. These skills, while important, pale before the ability to empathize with others, to build a connection from our understanding of another’s situation. I sometimes wonder if in the push to help our young children achieve higher and higher academic standards, we may be unintentionally hindering their ability to develop outstanding character. Is the pressure to succeed overriding our ability to feel?  Are our priorities in line?

Anna Dewdney, author of the “Llama Llama” series wrote, “When we read with a child, we are doing so much more than teaching him to read or instilling in her a love of language. We are doing something that I believe is just as powerful, and it is something that we are losing as a culture: by reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human. When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes.” Books are an invitation to life.

So there I sat with the boys, thinking about this poor bear and his sorrow, feeling a teachable moment surface. I paused for just a moment and asked them what they could do if they noticed that someone at school had no place to sit down. We were dabbling in “Intro to Empathy.”

Jackson crossed his arms over his chest and grunted, “I’m not moving over for anyone.”  

“You wouldn’t? Why not?”

He grumbled something indiscernible. I sighed, hoping that his lack of empathy was rooted in the late hour, or his lack of sleep, or anything that could absolve me from the blame. I resolved not to engage in a back-and-forth argument about better options he could choose; instead, I offered a quick account of the choice I would make. He’s strong-willed, and he gets it honestly. We’d have to come back to this idea another day.

Still, I felt a bit disappointed as I mulled over our interaction. How can my child be so unsympathetic?  

That’s when Parker chimed in, “I know! I know what I would do!” It seemed all hope was not lost. Maybe my time and energy could still be validated.

I turned to him and asked, “What would you do to help, Parker?” 

A sly grin spread across his face. “I would, I would…poop on him!” he squealed with delight. 

Oh dear. Never mind. There would be no validation.  

Mama tried. That is all I can do.  

Sometimes moments like these taunt me. They pile up higher and higher like a formidable tower displaying evidence of all the ways I fall short as a mother. I envision the dozens of times Parker has bolted off in public, his tiny feet racing down the sidewalk while he completely ignores me as I call for him. I hear the unsavory tone of Jackson’s voice as he toes the line of the pre-meltdown stage. Falling short has become our new norm.

The truth is that we are constantly being molded by our experiences, our responses, and the meaning we make from the two. We are perpetually changing, learning, and growing. Sometimes it’s a slow, long road and other times the change happens in an instant. Parents get to work tirelessly for the long haul as we raise our children. My kids will not make the best choice every single time; no one will. It is unreasonable to entertain any other expectation, to uphold the exhausting, futile myth of perfection. I’m learning to shatter this myth.

So much is already within our kids when they come to us. So much good, so much mischief, so much we can’t change, so much we wouldn’t even dream of changing. They are their own spirited selves.

All we can do is love them fiercely.

And keep on trying, one day, one story at a time.