A Stinky Day in Paradise: Literally

I’m reposting a pet story from the two months my daughter was studying abroad. I’m enjoying looking back at what I’ve written about our pets while we are in “shelter in place” for the Coronavirus. Pets make our lives better and it’s easier to cope in these strange times with a cuddling creature. A neighbor I chat with on my morning walks just adopted two Irish Setter pups and I can’t wait to meet them. I also read that the animal shelters are having record numbers of adoptions. I think that is a wonderful consequence to COVID-19.

Here’s the story when I was in charge of Waffles over the summer of 2018 and loved most of it — except the day we lost him camping — and the day that really stunk! Here’s what happened on that stinky day:

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Waffles the Pug this morning after all the action was over.

Literally. It stinks. My day began at 2:20 a.m. when my daughter texted me from Paris, France. She’s over there and wanted to ask me a question. Yes, at 2:20 a.m. because she’s nine hours ahead. I explained that I was sleeping! Then my husband woke up and we were wide awake for the next hour. She explained that she rarely has WiFi and has to text or call when she gets the chance. Lovely.

My husband got up at 4 a.m. He let Waffles the pug puppy we’re babysitting (for our daughter who is galavanting around Europe) out of his crate and they walked into the kitchen. Waffles bolted out the French doors to the backyard. Of course, I’m not back asleep yet, because they are noisy.

I heard “Waffles, Waffles! Where are you?” and then the jingle of Waffles name tag as he scampered back into the house. Next, I heard “Oh My GOD! He’s foaming at the mouth!”

I gave up trying to sleep and bolted into the kitchen, where my husband was holding Waffles and yes, he was foaming at the mouth! I grabbed paper towels and wiped out inside his mouth and tongue. Then, the odor hit me. It was like nothing I’ve smelled before. It burned my eyes and nose. I turned on the flashlight on my iPhone and ventured outside to find out what Waffles got into.

My husband locked Waffles in the guest bath and met me outside. We tried to trace where Waffles might have gone by flashlight.

“What’s that smell?” I asked.

“It smells like burning chemicals.”

“Maybe Waffles got poisoned,” I said. I ran back to the bathroom and discovered that other than foaming at the mouth and running in circles, Waffles appeared to be okay.

We returned outside and found that some parts really smelled worse than others but we couldn’t tell what it was. It permeated the air, this strong industrial, chemical burning that we tasted and smelled. Eventually, we gave up on the dark yard, and I put Waffles in his crate next to our bed. I decided to try and sleep. But, first I googled “dog foaming at the mouth bad odor” and got SKUNK! It honestly didn’t smell a thing like skunk to me, but maybe that’s because I haven’t had such a close encounter before.

I also found a recipe from the Humane Society of one-quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and one teaspoon dishwashing liquid. I jumped out of bed and mixed up a batch, grabbed Waffles out of the crate and did my best to wash him in the dark on the patio. I used up all the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda we had and then hosed him off. Then I heard the shower running in our bathroom, so I tossed Waffles in the shower with my husband to shampoo once again.

I fell back asleep after all of this, but I missed my morning Masters swim practice because of the timing and exhaustion. And that really stinks. Also, the house doesn’t smell too great either, because the number one rule I learned on the internet when your dog gets skunked—leave them outside. Do NOT let them inside the house.

After I woke up again, I went back to the store and restocked on the de-skunking supplies and applied another batch of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap on Waffles and his crate.

Fortunately, or maybe, unfortunately, I have a dear friend in Carpinteria whose Rottie had several engagements with skunks. She said to simmer orange peel, cinnamon sticks and water on the stovetop all day, and place bowls of distilled vinegar around the house. The house is smelling citrusy-cinnamony now, and this stinky day will be a thing of the past.

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Waffles and his crate in the backyard, both soaking in hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and baking soda.

Has one of your pets been skunked before? How did you handle it?

Good News: A Birthday for the 🐕


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It’s my son’s birthday on Thursday. I wrote this story a few years ago when he was still in college and Spring Break aligned with his birthday. It was always a treat that he could be home and we’d all celebrate. 

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m posting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his second grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

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In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

True Grit and Sports Specialization: What’s the Connection?

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It takes grit to become an elite-level athlete. Not every athlete has it. And it can’t be developed without internal motivation.

Both of my kids began swimming at a young age. My daughter began swimming with a year-round team at age five, while my son began swimming at age eight. (He’s three years older).

They did do other activities for a few years before they decided to specialize. And that is the key: they decided. My son was running between t-ball, tennis, karate and swimming and felt like he wasn’t making progress in any of them. He got the swimming bug and wanted to compete. So, we dropped the other sports.

My daughter was being shuttled between the ballet studio and the pool. She honestly thought that ballet was some weird form of punishment — especially putting on pink tights and a black leotard in the 110-degree heat — while her brother got to dive into the pool!

 

 

I listened to a podcast by Ritter Sports Performance on early sports specialization and the main thing I took away was that an athlete has to be internally motivated. They can’t be putting in the hours and training to please their parents or their coach.  If they have the passion and are hardwired to compete at their sport, then they will reach the elite level regardless when they start.

In swimming, two examples are Rowdy Gaines and Ed Moses, who both started late in high school. They did a lot of other sports before they found the pool. Once they started swimming they excelled and loved it.

So, why do we insist on sports specialization a young age? It’s because some sports like swimming take a lot of time to develop technique. Parents naturally want their kids to have a head start.

Then there’s the 10,000 rule from Outliers: The Story of Success that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be good at something.  But, an interesting theory is that it’s not the quantity, but the quality of practice. You can’t be looking at the clock waiting for practice to be over. You have to be in the moment giving it your all.

There are certain guidelines that kids should do a lot of different activities before they specialize, but that by the time they turn 12 or 13 years old they need to focus on one sport. There are always exceptions to the rule. For example, one my of daughter’s childhood teammates was an amazing swimmer. In high school, she stopped the club team and played water polo, ran cross country and swam for the high school team. Her athleticism continued to grow and she walked on as a swimmer at the D1 university and became their fastest sprinter.

I say, follow your kids’ lead. They will know what sport ignites their passion. By allowing them to follow their passion, they can develop the grit it takes to be successful.

What sports are your children in and at what age did they specialize?

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Tips on better ways to discipline your kids

randk 11When I look back at my parenting days when the kids were young, I honestly can’t remember many times when I had to discipline them. They will say I was strict — more strict than their friends’ parents — so you’d think I was heavy-handed with discipline, right? Maybe I’ve just gotten old and have forgotten why or when I had to discipline my kids.

One thing I do remember clearly was them fighting over sand at the beach — throwing sand in each other’s faces and knocking down sandcastles. How did I handle them fighting? Mostly with time-outs. What didn’t work at the beach was to make them pack up and return to the house. I tried that and discovered that I liked being at the beach and I was the one who lost out! They were perfectly happy to be back in the house in front of the T.V.

In the Santa Maria Times there is a great article by Claire McCarthy, M.D. Harvard Health Blog, called Discipline of children: How to avoid long-term negative effects.

The article talks about the negative consequences of yelling or spanking your kids. Dr. McCarthy said studies show it doesn’t work and may cause aggressive behavior, mental health issues and substance abuse. It also hurts the relationship between the parent and child. In addition to discussing negative consequences of aversive parenting, she gives tips for positive discipline techniques. I highly recommend reading the entire article. Following are Dr. McCarthy’s tips for disciplining your children:

An alternative approach to discipline is in a loving, proactive way. Teach the rules ahead of time rather than waiting for your child to break them and reacting then — and be as positive and empowering as you can. Here are some tips:

  • Have realistic expectations. Babies are going to cry, toddlers are going to get into things they shouldn’t, school-age kids sometimes lie to avoid trouble, and teenagers — well, they do all sorts of things as they assert their independence. Not that you have to ignore or condone these behaviors (well, you might have to just deal with a baby crying; that’s not misbehaving), but it’s important to understand the stage your child is going through as you discipline. At each checkup with your pediatrician, talk about what to expect next in your child’s development.
  • Set clear limits. No should mean no, and there should be house and family rules for kind, safe behavior. Each family will have slightly different rules, but they should be clearly stated and known to everyone. Not only that, but when it comes to rules you need to:
  • Be consistent. If something isn’t allowed, it’s not allowed. If you give in sometimes out of sheer exhaustion or because you weren’t super-committed to that rule, kids will pick up on that immediately. Which means that you need to choose your rules carefully (meaning: Pick your battles).
  • Have predictable and clear consequences for breaking rules. Giving kids a heads-up is helpful (“I am going to count to three, and I need that to stop, or we will have a consequence”). The consequence should be something they don’t like — sending them to their room where they play with toys may not do the trick. “Timeout” is one option, where you put the child in a boring place for a minute for each year of age and don’t interact with them. You can also take toys or privileges away.
  • Reinforce good behavior. Say things like, “I love it when you … ” or “That was so nice that you did that!” or “Because you behaved so well today, let’s read an extra story tonight.” Children like praise and may be more likely to behave well when they see that it’s worth their while.
  • Be mindful of your own needs and reactions. Parenthood is hard. Sometimes parents need a timeout themselves. If you feel yourself getting really upset, make sure your child is somewhere safe, and then take some time to calm down.

What methods of discipline do you use for your kids and how well does it work?

Don’t Be Afraid to Let Your Children Fail

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My kids trying out their superpowers.

There’s something to be said for failure. I look back on my younger parenting days and realized I was interfering too much day to day. I wouldn’t let my kids face consequences or fail. I would rush to school with forgotten homework or swim suits. I talked to teachers about tests scores and homework grades that were less than perfect. What a pain in the butt I must have been–although I thought I had good relationships with teachers and coaches.

Without the chance to fail, we are robbing our kids the chance to learn from their mistakes. My son would sleep through his alarm and I’d wake him up for school on a daily basis. My dad advised me to let him be late for school and he’d learn. I wasn’t sure he would learn, so I always woke him up and got him going.

In an article on the NBC Tulsa 2 website called The Effect of ‘Snow Plow’ Parenting by Travis Guillory, I learned some statistics that show the negative effects of rescuing our kids from failure.

TULSA — We’re taking a look at a new trend in parenting styles called “Snow Plow” parenting, where these parents make a clear path for their kids with no obstacles.

Experts say it could be setting them up to fail.

So we’re showing you the impacts of being a “Snow Plow” parent and why taking a step back, may be your best move.

You may have heard the term helicopter parenting, even lawnmower parenting, now we have “Snow Plow” parenting.

Child Development Expert Katey McPherson says, “It’s a newer term, snow plow parenting where they are just plowing through everything for them.”

6th Grade English Teacher Jordan Madura says she sees it constantly.

Madura says, I’ve definitely had times when I’ve spoke to a parent and the parent is like I don’t understand why this test has to be this way, like isn’t there a way that you can postpone because of x,y, and z? Asking for more things that I would expect that the kid could ask for.”

McPherson says whether it’s helicopter, lawnmower or snowplowing parents, all of it based out of fear.

“We really are afraid of the world, this is an unsafe place, so I’m going to hunker down, I’m going to protect my babies. I’m going to carefully engineer play dates, club soccer schedules, junior high, high school path to college etc.,” says McPherson.

And how exactly does it affect our kids, take a look at the numbers:

  • 30 percent of 18 to 34-year-old men are living at home with mom and dad
  • Getting a driver’s license and driving is not a priority
  • And many times after their first year of college, they come back home, for good.

“They don’t have the life skills to deal with a mean roommate or a mean professor,” says McPherson.

Educators and experts say the same thing: Failure is and will always have to be part of success.

There’s an interesting book called “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success” by John C. Maxwell that is helpful in this area. Failure and mistakes are certainties in life. It’s how we react to failure that counts. Successful people move on and learn from mistakes. We should look at failure in our children’s lives the same way. Everything and anything can be a learning experience. Let our children learn and grow. Perfectionism can be stifling to growth.

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Now I’m trying to let go of my adult children and allowing them room to fail.

What types of failures have your children experienced and grown from? 

When should we defend our kids?

When they were young.

One sure sign of being a helicopter parent is to jump in without being asked to solve your kids’ problems. I was always a stickler for what was right or wrong and I never shied away from addressing any issue. I would go to bat for my kids whenever I felt they were being slighted. Looking back, I know I should have let them fight their own battles.

Here are a few things I took on when I thought my kids weren’t being treated right:

I wrote an email to my son’s AP History teacher to complain about his grade. He was .05 off an A and I felt the teacher should round it up. I got a note back explaining that if he were to round up my son’s grade, he’d have to go back and do the same thing for every other student in his grade book who was a fraction off the next higher grade. (Not a bad idea, I thought!) My son was being passed over for his school’s nomination for the coveted National Merit Scholarship award because of the B, but he lived through it. I doubt he loses any sleep over it today. I know I don’t. Instead I want him to be happy and healthy.

When I felt a coach was picking on my son, I made an appointment to complain about it, only to find out that he had earned the “coach’s award” for best attitude and effort. That surprised me and I’m embarrassed about that meeting to this day.

When my daughter was given five days of after-school detention for forgetting to bring the photocopy of Christmas song lyrics to music class, I complained that the punishment was over the top. In fact, other kids were given two nights detention, so there was a definite crossing the line by the music teacher—in my humble opinion. I don’t regret fighting for her that time at all.

randk 11There are countless other incidents where I went to battle for my kids. I do believe I taught them the difference between right and wrong and that they should stand up for themselves. At least that’s what I told myself at the time. I should have known better though, and let them handle it.

I couldn’t understand why other parents would stand by and let bad things happen to their kids. I do now. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and shrug your shoulders. I’ve found that some of the things that would have bugged me to no end, will soon disappear on their own within a few days or weeks. By making an issue out of little things, they can turn into big ones and burn a lot of energy and create angst.

My daughter complained to me during her last year of school, during a meeting with students on a group project, the guys were complaining that all the women coming forward about sexual harassment were “just looking for attention.” That infuriated my daughter to no end. I asked her if she was going to put up with it or wanted to go to the professor or counselor and complain. She decided to let it go. She was a week from being done with that class and just wanted to get through it. I told her I would stand by whatever she decided.

When my son received a letter telling him he was kicked out of college during the summer after his freshman year for bad grades, I was horrified. But, then I stood by and watched him research his options online. He wrote a letter to contest the decision and got hospital and doctor records to substantiate his unfortunate circumstances of an injury and surgery which caused too many missed classes. He was let back in without me doing a thing. After that, he earned As.

Me and my boy.

One thing I know about parenting is all we can do is try our best. It’s been my goal to raise kids who know the difference between right and wrong and will try their best as well.

What do you think about parents fighting battles for their kids? Are they helping or hurting them by getting involved?

Are you losing sleep over your adult kids?

When they were young and I worried about other things.

I read a fascinating story that said “Study Confirms That Parents Still Lose Sleep Worrying About Their Adult Children.” I am definitely on of those parents who loses sleep and I know my dear friend Gabby, who shared this story on Facebook is one, also. 

Even before our children are born, we worry about them. We’re relieved when we count the 10 fingers and 10 toes in the hospital, but we still worry. We’re relieved when they do well on their tests in school and make the team, but we still worry. We worry about safety, about their grades, about what they’ll do for a career, about who they’ll one day marry or if they’ll get married at all. The list of things to worry about feels endless.

We hope that our worries will ease as our children get older, but it turns out that’s not the case.

Can you relate to this as a parent, too? On my current list of worries is the bad air quality from California fires, my kids driving through the Cyclone Bomb weather, which is a rare event with high winds, rain and even snow, plus their general safety living in the Bay Area. I worry that they are secure in their careers and find their work satisfying and are able to make a living.IMG_1569-1

Here’s more from the story about parents who worry about adult kids:

A recent study conducted by Amber J. Seidel of Pennsylvania State University confirms what many parents already know – you never stop worrying about your children. Her study went on to show that parents actually lose sleep worrying about their adult children.

Parents, it looks like we’ll be worrying forever. If your children are already adults, you may already know that to be true.

In Seidel’s study, 186 heterosexual married couples with adult children were surveyed. On a scale of 1 to 8, they were asked how much assistance they offer their children. Assistance could include financial, emotional or even chatting on the phone. Choosing 1 meant daily assistance and interaction where 8 was only once a year.

The parents were also asked to choose from 1 to 5 regarding stress. In this case, choosing 1 meant no stress, and 5 meant the maximum amount of stress.

The third thing these parents tracked was how much sleep they got at night. Moms got an average of 6.66 hours and dads got slightly more with an average of 6.69 hours.

The results were not the same for moms and dads. For moms, it didn’t matter if they were the ones offering assistance or if their husbands were the ones offering assistance; moms were stressed out and sleeping less either way.

Dads showed a lack of sleep and more stress only when they were the ones offering assistance to their adult children. If their wife offered assistance, it didn’t affect them. This either means that dads are not affected in the same way as moms or that the wives weren’t telling their husbands about the assistance causing the dads to be stress free due to lack of knowledge about the situation.

I found it interesting that the dads didn’t lose sleep if their wives were the ones offering support. Or, like the article said, maybe they weren’t aware of what was going on. But the moms lost sleep regardless who was the main person offering support to their kids.

Do you worry about your children too, regardless of their age? What do you worry about most?

My kids are learning how to adult and I worry more.