Sunday, April 17, 2016

Surrender and The End of an Era


Dog ownership has numerous benefits.  For the kids: responsibility, compassion, companionship.  For the adults: the rewards of training them (successfully), a creature that loves you unconditionally and is always happy to see you, the oxytocin from petting them, never having to clean up food off the floor, I could go on and on.  The whole 'man's best friend' thing is pretty scientific.  Dogs are awesome.

Being a "dog family" has always been important to me, and Dan got on board with adding two pups to the household before the children were born, only with the guarantee that they'd be a breed big enough to keep up with him when he went running with them.   So, we got our golden retriever mix pups, Luna and Apollo, when I was pregnant with our first child just over four years ago.  We adored them immediately.  We nurtured them, trained them, took them with us wherever we could, shared lots of photos of them, kept up their vet records and grooming.  We did all the things, and we loved it.

Anyone who knows us personally has probably spent time with Luna and Apollo over the last four years, and most of you would probably say that they are some of the best dogs you have ever met.   They are gentle with children, tolerant, smart, obedient, sweet, loyal, friendly... really wonderful creatures.  I might go so far to say as they're the best dogs in the whole wide world.

Anyone who knows us really really really well also knows that over the last year ish, mainly after our second child was born, dog ownership has been a stress on our family life, and a wedge in our marriage.  And that's why I'm writing this post.

There came a time, I couldn't pinpoint exactly when, that caring for our dogs and caring for them well became more than we could handle.  They weren't getting walked, or even played with.  We opted not to bring them with us to places we would have totally brought them before we had kids, because we needed to put the stroller in the back of the car, or it was just too much to think about.  We still fed them of course and gave them water and picked up their poop, and they were still part of our home life, but it wasn't the same.   The guilt... oh the guilt...  of course Luna and Apollo never complained, they were happy in their indoor laziness and free reign of the not-so-groomed backyard.   They loyally followed me and the girls around the house when we were home, and loyally waited for us to come home after we left for a while.  But it wasn't ideal for anyone.

As it goes with any animal, when we eased up on their training and attention, they got bored and restless.  A few months ago, Apollo discovered that he could climb over our five-foot plastic fence and explore the neighborhood whenever he wanted -- and so there went their outdoor freedom.  Luna began to gain a little weight from eating the table scraps from not one, but two messy toddlers.   While they never destroyed anything of great consequence (I've heard horror stories of couches being ripped apart or expensive shoes being eaten, etc.), the various sporadic incidences of vomit by the back door, or paper-shredding when we left for a few hours, were so much more a burden than they would have been if I wasn't already cleaning up after my human children all day long.  Then there was anxiety about leaving for too long, worried about how long since they'd been out -- not just what they might do while unsupervised, but the guilt of being away.

It was being overwhelmed with everything going on in our world, with two children and the rest of life; and also having the dogs on top of that.   It was cursing any forecast of rain because that meant the backyard would be muddy and the dogs would track it inside and it would be one more thing to clean.  It was trying to find a dog-sitter to stay at our house any time we wanted to leave for the weekend.  It was trying to remember when they needed another vaccine and vet checkup and to renew their license, and missing the deadline every single time.  Everything about them was just One  More Thing.   Dan checked-out and stopped caring, and I just wasn't good at any of it anymore.  We both got resentful.   I cringe as I write this, that the dogs were such a burden, because they are SUCH great dogs... but that was our reality.

Anyone with two or more (human) toddlers knows what it's like to feel like you're failing at life, like all the ideals you had set -- the easy marriage you were going to have, the awesome parents you were going to be, the beautiful clean house you were going to keep, the meals you were going to cook, the showers you were going to take every day..... the perfect dogs you were going to have as part of your perfect little family -- are completely unattainable.  

That sort of failure was a daily feeling for us.  Our wonderful dogs were getting the short end of the stick and it was all our fault.  You see, people shouldn't get a dog unless they are committed to making that dog a priority in their family's lifestyle through all the stages and seasons that will come for the remainder of that dog's life-expectancy.  We always planned to have kids, but we had nooooo idea how much we were going to suck as dog owners after we had human children.

To some people reading this, getting rid of a dog sounds like a no brainer in our situation; to others, getting rid of a dog sounds completely selfish and we should have sacrificed something else in our lifestyle.  This is not an easy thing.  It's emotional.  It's complex.

Turns out dog ownership isn't for us.  Gosh that's hard to say.   Dan and I didn't communicate our feelings about the dogs in a healthy way for over a year, and it has taken a lot of really hard conversations and a lot of tears jammed into a short amount of time for us to get to a healthy place about this.

I haven't stopped crying in two weeks since we made the terribly difficult decision to re-home Luna and Apollo.

Making the decision to give them up, but not knowing where they would be going or when, yet still having them in our house with us going about their good-dog day-to-day, was simply awful.

Once we made the decision, there was a lot of legwork to do to get them to the right place.
Let me tell you a few things I learned in the process:
1. Craigslist has banned the sale/exchange of pets.  Not a good option for re-homing beloved animals.
2. Humane Society?  Not so humane.  Animals surrendered by their owners are almost always euthanized, sometimes that same day.  Not an option.
3.  There are "shelters"and there are "rescues", and they all operate a little differently and you have to ask a lot of questions before making a choice, especially if you want the "best thing" for the animal you are trying to re-home.  The local shelters and rescues that came up in my web searches were not candidates for these two top-notch amazing pets, and there was definitely no chance that they would get to stay together.  They simply didn't belong there.

We first reached out to family and friends, with hopes that someone might know someone who would A. want two adult dogs, and B. be the perfect home for them with a giant yard and no other animals and older kids and a real heart for dogs that would triumph over the difficult seasons in ways ours did not.  This is a big thing to ask of your acquaintances.  Even of the friends and friends-of-friends who were interested, there were no perfect candidates that we could have given them away to without some reservations.  I was feeling desperate.

Lucky for us, Apollo and Luna are 75% Golden Retriever.  A few days after I sent that first blast email to every dog lover I know, I had two trusted contacts recommend an organization called AZ Golden Rescue that operates literally like an adoption agency for Golden Retrievers.  They have a waiting list of over 100 families that want to adopt, each of which has been interviewed and their homes inspected before being approved to get a dog from this organization.   Luna and Apollo were perfect candidates due to their training and demeanor and health, and the woman I spoke with over the phone was very enthusiastic that they would be placed, together, quickly and with an amazing family.  I felt so much better about our decision after this phone call, and knew it was the right way to go.

Two days later I got the call that they would be picked up Sunday morning and taken directly to their new family.  I felt despair that their leaving was final, yet so thankful for this organization, for the anonymity, and for the peace of mind that they are going to be adored and cared for so much better somewhere else.  Sadly most dogs who are surrendered by their owners are not so lucky, suffering fates I would have not been willing to impose on our dogs.

I wrote a six-page document for their new family describing each dog's personality and tendencies and favorite things; their routine and what they're used to.  Four years is a long time to have an animal, almost our whole marriage.  I know Luna and Apollo better than anyone.  I cried. A lot. And cried some more.

This morning we gathered all their things.  Brushed them one last time.  Patted their heads one last time.  Signed some papers.  Cried some more with the volunteer who picked them up (she was wonderful).  And at 10:30am we said goodbye to our dogs.

This whole thing has been so damn hard, and I expect it will be for a while until I get used to my feet being cold under my desk where Luna used to lay, and the cheerios on the floor with no one to lick them up, and coming home to an empty house with no one to greet me.  They're really gone.

I've reflected on Luna and Apollo's service-animal heritage and what a service they did for Dan and I.  Early in our marriage, training them was a bonding experience that prepared us for parenting in more ways than we knew.  They provided countless hours of fun and companionship.  They have been good, good dogs.  Truthfully better to us than we were to them in the end.

Now they will bring new joy to another household.  I don't know specifics, but the volunteer told me that their new family has a giant house and a giant yard, and middle-school aged kids to play with them all the time, and a hiking trail right up the street.   I know they will adjust quickly and will live a long and happy rest of their dog lives together.

And we, the Griffins, are not a "dog family".  And never will be again.  And I've had to let go of that.


Think you want to get a dog?  Think twice.  Think three times.  Think a lot.  Don't let our story dissuade you from dog ownership, but please consider the very real circumstances that await you and your lifestyle for the next decade or so before you make the decision to add a dog to your family.  Puppies are cute and dogs are cool, but pet ownership should be a long-term commitment.   Don't be like us, trust me you don't want to go through this.

March 2012

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Batten and Board

We're in the middle of a[nother] project in our house, now that the Murphy Bed / Study is finished this time we are installing Batten and Board in our main room and a bench and mudroom hooks in our entryway.  Right now it looks like we were framing an add-on and then ran out of money, but when complete it's going to look awesome.

Dan's mini me snuck away from the dinner table to put on his hat and goggles and start hammering away.   Three things come to mind: 1. how much she looks like Dan -- her posture and build, her face, that hat... 2. She can be SUCH a good and eager helper sometimes (I said sometimes)... 3. I love that our girls see their father at work on our home, using his hands and his skills.   That makes me get past the stress and eagerness to be all done and have our house back.  Will share "finished" pictures on social media when the time comes!

Help Our Rank & Visit Top Baby Blogs, Baby Blog Directory!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

victory over the night

I'm elated to report that for the last four nights, Josephine Lucille (17mo) slept ten hours.  That's right, ten hours.  That means also that I have slept a normal amount for a grownup with a one and a half year old.

Anyone else who has had a "terrible sleeper" knows the feeling when all your hard work sleep training your little one pays off and finally one morning you wake up and realize that it's light outside and you haven't heard a peep from your baby yet.   I didn't want to jinx it the first night, so I didn't tell anyone, but I feel like after four nights it's safe to report that I think we are over the hump.

I haven't blogged much about our sleep struggles.  I haven't blogged much lately at all, for that matter.  I've thought about it lots of times.  But I've been just so tired.  And it made me want to cry, the though of typing out that I hadn't slept more than four hours at a time in almost two years.

As recently as one week ago, Josie was still waking up every three hours, mad at the world, demanding to be picked up, to nurse, to be sung to.   We were completely and in every way exhausted.   Aside from managing our dogs (another story), the middle-of-the-night situation has probably been the biggest consistent source of tension in our marriage for the last six months.   It's your turn / no she only wants you / I don't want to breastfeed / well there's nothing I can do, why don't we just ignore her / we have to stick with the plan / yada yada yada yada.  None of that is fun in the middle of the night when you're half asleep and miserable.   It doesn't help that our other kid poops herself in the middle of the night five days a week (another 'nother story) 

I'm not going to elaborate on what our sleep training "plan" looked like, because it was a loose and sloppy plan, and every child is different, and I'm not a certified pediatric sleep specialist, and I hate all those parenting/sleep books, and truthfully, I don't think it would be helpful to anyone if I shared specifically what we did to finally get here.  Other people telling me what they did with their kids was not helpful to me when I was desperate and sleep deprived and feeling hopeless.  It made me want to punch something.   There are some great resources from real specialists that are worth checking out, I am not one of them.  (One in particular that helped me was Tracy from Get Quiet Nights.)

But what I will say is this: every child will sleep through the night some day.  This [very very difficult] phase of our life was no different than any other phase.  It came, and it went.

And now if you need me at 3am, you can find me cozy in my bed having a party in my dreams.

Help Our Rank & Visit Top Baby Blogs, Baby Blog Directory!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Penelope has been having a really hard time whenever I leave the house to go somewhere by myself.  She has no problem if Dan and I go somewhere together, and leave her with a babysitter.  But when I am trying to leave alone, she loses it.  Even if it's somewhere completely intolerable for a little girl, she insists she wants to go with me.  In the moment, I have to swallow my frustration because usually I have three options: 1. create a diversion and sneak out, 2. pry her off my leg and then suffer the guilt of leaving her behind in a pool of tears, or 3. stay long enough to talk through it with her that she actually does not want to come with me and brain-ninja her into thinking it was her idea that she should stay and I should go (which usually makes me late and still requires that I carry out #1).  Usually I'm already running late, so these extra steps are tough for me.

I'm trying to focus on being present with her more.  In general.  She constantly wants me to join her in doing her favorite things "Mommy, would you like to color with me?" "Mommy, would you like to play dress up with me?"  "Mommy, let's make something delicious in the kitchen."   Too often I've got my hands tied and can't.  Or won't.  But I'm making a conscious effort to allow myself to put work away, or pause doing the dishes, or postpone the email response; and give her a few minutes of undivided play.

Once, just once, I let Penny come along on a quick photo session for some friends of ours who I knew wouldn't mind that she tagged along, at a location where she could safely roam without constant supervision.   She was actually marginally helpful, getting their two-year-old to smile a little.  Now, she wants to be my photography assistant SOOOOOO bad.   "Mom, I will help you with your photo shoot."  "But mom, I know that kid you are taking pictures of."  Every time.  And she's devastated most when it's a photo shoot that I'm going to and she cannot come with me.

I hope when she's old enough to really assist, that she still has interest, because nothing would bring me more joy than for her to take up what I do, and have it be something we could do together.

Some day, big girl, some day.

Help Our Rank & Visit Top Baby Blogs, Baby Blog Directory!

Monday, January 4, 2016

32 / Resolutions

My life over the last year has been full and amazing. But... if we're being vulnerable here, age 31 was a tough for me, on a strictly personal level. It was a year of feeling tired and in over my head. A year of poor sleep. A year of more weight gain and sedentary lifestyle than ever before. Dan categorizes some of my clothing ensembles as "you look like you've given up on life" and last year I wore them a lot - oversized t-shirts and old pajama sweats mostly, usually paired with either wet or dirty hair pulled into a bun. It was year of being discontent about my body but choosing to pour my efforts into my children and my business instead of myself or my husband. It was a year of physical ailments and injuries, some unpreventable but some likely a manifestation of the lack of order. It was a year of never quite finding balance in any area of my life. Any. But pretending that I had it all together.

My birthday falls so close to New Years that I tend to think less of New Years Resolutions and more about what I want for myself in each new year of my life. So moving on from The Year of the Tired Hobo, on my 32nd birthday I've got a list of four things I want for myself. Just for me.

Feel Fantastic in my body. Fitness and weight loss goal cliches aside, this one's super personal. In the Fall, we joined a gym and I lost 18 pounds by the tried-and-true nutrition/exercise method. It wasn't about a number, it was about feeling like myself again. I got to where I was feeling pretty darn good in my own skin, but not totally where I wanted to be. Over the holidays I gained some back but I plan to start the year off strong and get back on the wagon. I'm pretty pumped about it. This line item also includes not being injured all the time. Being strong and protecting my back, and gaining coordination to help save me from some of my own clumsiness, so maybe, just maybe I won't sprain anything this year.

Marriage, THEN kids, THEN business. This one might be the most challenging for me, but I've got to include it and hold myself accountable to it. For my family.

Care more about my appearance. Not in a vanity kind of way; in a "I haven't given up on life" kind of way. More specifically: I'd like to: 1. Wear lipstick more often; 2. Do my hair once a week (especially since I've recently discovered a dry shampoo that I love) and not just on days when I might have my picture taken or see someone I want to impress; 3. Not wear sweats or pajamas past 3pm more than twice a week and; 4. Start wearing jewelry again, now that my children should be old enough not to rip it off of me and eat it.

Be more connected with girlfriends.  Asking for and accepting help.  Be the "reacher outer" from time to time instead of waiting for others to reach out to me for phone conversations and play dates or - gasp - kidless mom dates.

32 feels.... safe and peaceful.   I was telling my sister today that thirty-two actually does feel older than thirty-one.   I do feel older today than I did yesterday.  And I feel so great about that.

 images in this post: Melissa Young Photography

Help Our Rank & Visit Top Baby Blogs, Baby Blog Directory!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Memory Story: Christmas 2015

Penny's preschool did a Christmas show, wherein two dozen toddlers in their pajamas sang Christmas songs for about half an hour.  Penny participated halfway, mostly doing her own interpretive dance and making funny faces.  Annual quota of cuteness for sure.

At the end, Miss Carrie asked each of the kiddos what they want for Christmas and handed them the microphone.  Penny's answer:  "A bike for my baby sister."   When asked, "Well what about for you?" she replied: "I already have a bike."

This instance among many other things have warmed this mama's heart this holiday season. And even though I didn't get a perfect photo of the two of them together, I wouldn't have changed one thing.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to you and yours!


Help Our Rank & Visit Top Baby Blogs, Baby Blog Directory!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Five things I couldn't live without (right now)

1. Dr. Teal's Milk & Honey Epsom Salt to calm us all and make us smell good.

2. Lego Duplos to keep my girls busy when I need a break.

3. This Radio Flyer Wagon to get where we need to go in the neighborhood with all my wares.

4. Factory Blanket Cardigan because it's flattering and goes with everything.

5. Twisted Peppermint Candle to make my messy house feel a little bit more Christmasy.

Help Our Rank & Visit Top Baby Blogs, Baby Blog Directory!

Monday, November 30, 2015

the elf without the tattling

It's almost December 1st.  Not only does that mean Christmas countdown is officially on, but this day and age, it means the elves show up in most houses that have little kids.

Dan and I weren't going to do the Elf-On-The-Shelf thing, because, one more thing.  But we decided to do it so Penny isn't the only one in her preschool class who doesn't have one, and make it fun for us too.

When we got the kit and read the book, we were NOT into the whole 'I'm spying on you and I'm going to tell Santa if you're bad' thing... so we completely ditched the book and our elf is leaving this note instead.

Dear Penny and Josie,

I’m visiting your house,
From the North Pole I came
I’m thrilled to see you girls and
I hope you feel the same!

Every night I will fly back
To see Santa and my friends,
And tell them my adventures, 
Before I return here again.

I’m a little bit silly
And I love to explore
I knew your house would be fun
As soon as I flew in the door!

I’ll be using my magic
This whole month of December,
But you must follow some rules
Every day please remember

Only two rules,
I hope you’ll agree:
I can’t talk to you,
And you cannot touch me.

But no worries sweet girlies
There’ll be so much fun to share,
Thanks for having me here,
You’ll find me every day somewhere!



Sharing this here in case any of you likeminded people would like to copy and paste to reuse or modify it.  I searched the internet for alternate narratives for the elf and came up dry, so hopefully this is useful to someone!

Help Our Rank & Visit Top Baby Blogs, Baby Blog Directory!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...