I Know a Dog

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I know a dog that thinks he is a person.

I know a dog that wouldn’t think of sleeping on a dog bed.

I know a dog that forced his humans to buy a king sized mattress.

I know a dog that can’t be bothered sharing a room with a newborn. Night waking is not his thing.

I know a dog that left his parents’ bed a few days after baby #1 was born but returned to their bed when she moved into her crib.

I know a dog that left the bed again when baby #2 arrived, but again returned when she moved to her own room.

I know a dog that left his human parents’ bed the minute baby#3 was conceived. His human mom didn’t even know she was pregnant. The dog knew. He thought they were insane. He still has not come back.

I know a dog that sometimes pretends the kids do not exist.

I know a dog that at night snuck into the girls’ bedroom, jumped in their beds and stole their favorite stuffed animals to carry around the house.

I know a dog that was bred to tree bears, but is scared of people with strange haircuts and hats.

I know a dog that acted out when baby #3 came home – no more kids – enough is enough.

I know a dog that in 2014 destroyed a princess lunch box, a cat lunch box, a dinosaur lunch box, two fox lunch boxes, a panda bear lunchbox and three fox backpacks.

I know a dog that when baby #3 was just a couple weeks old devoured a giant Costco size container of Jelly Belly jellybeans (64oz). The bloated dog wandered the house, whimpering for hours while his human parents worried. That night the minute the human mom sat on the couch to relax after getting three babies to bed, the dog jumped on her lap and spewed rainbow color vomit all over her and the sofa.

I know a dog that has had his tail pulled, face grabbed, been climbed on and bitten by barbaric small people but has never snapped back.

I know a dog that didn’t acknowledge the existence of baby #3 until he started eating solids.  Now he licks baby feet daily.

I know a dog that runs to the door when his mom puts on yoga pants and running shoes in hopes that he will get walk.

I know a dog that was born to run unleashed in the mountains.

I know a dog that more often than not walks sandwiched between two strollers around the park in the city.

I know a dog that could choose to hide in the closet and avoid the chaos of three children under five like his Basset Hound sister.

I know a dog that always chooses to be part of the action, lying in the center of stuffed animal picnics, hiding in blanket forts and always cuddling up for story time.

I know a dog that is depressed when his family goes on vacations without him.

I know a dog that didn’t like the children but now lies with them on the couch.

I know a dog that has the loudest howl in the neighborhood.

I know a dog that is lightning fast.

I know a dog whose cerebral cortex shuts down when tennis balls are around.

I know a dog that like his human dad became exponentially grayer with each additional child.

I know a dog that is indispensable at mealtime, cleaning all the crumbs and licking messy hands.

I know a dog that after four years has grown picky as to what food he eats off the floor at meal times.

I know a dog that got me walking even when it was 90 degrees outside and I was 41 weeks pregnant.

I know a dog that has gracefully been through the ups and downs of eight years of marriage and the birth of three children.

I know a dog that was at the top of the totem pole and is still pretty high up there.

I know a dog that now sleeps covered in stuffed animals on a certain four-year-olds bed.

I know a dog that will be magically woven into three children’s childhood memories.

I know a dog that pretends he doesn’t like the kids but accepts them in his family.

I know a dog that sometimes acts as the scapegoat for his human mommy’s wrath.

I know a dog that is fine with that.

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A Boy. A Gun. A Crisis

Note: The characters and facts of this story are fictional.

****

The police found him hiding behind the cushion of an outdoor lounge chair. A seventeen-year old kid, who looked more like a man than a child. Sirens sounded and he crawled behind the cushion of a lounge chair in the backyard of the house he had broken in to.

He was caught in a twisted version of hide-and-seek. Scared, he hid. He hid in a spot that my three-year-old would choose, face covered, adult limbs protruding in the sunlight. Like a child his face hidden from view – if he couldn’t see out then maybe they couldn’t see in.

If I can’t see you then you can’t see me.

I read his case file. Low IQ, IEP, truancy, sick mother, abusive father, a boy lost in the system.

A young man, whose developmental state was that of a young child.

A boy – hidden, scared, and with a gun.

They heard the sirens. His friends ran, a loose term to describe his partners in crime. They ran, hopped a fence and disappeared. But the boy hid. He hid behind the chair cushion with a Glock handgun tucked into his waistband.

I sat next to him. His hands and ankles shackled. “Do you know why you are here?” I asked kindly. “You are being charged with second degree burglary and unlawful possession of a firearm.” His eyes grew large. The legal terms floating in the air around us.

“When can I go home?” his voice cracked. I could smell his breath as he spoke.

His mother was crying across the room. He had no record. “This can’t be right. He can’t go to jail. This can’t be his story. He is a nice boy,” she repeated.

I tried to explain – to the boy, to his mother. “You had a gun. You had a handgun in your jeans, and you were found in a stranger’s home. You are not going home. This is serious. You are being charged with a felony.”

I spoke to the boy in a man’s body. He told me his story.

He took the bus home from school. Some guys told him they needed cash. They asked him if he wanted to get some cash. The boy agreed. He didn’t know their names. He wanted money. His mom needed money. He wanted friends. He was lonely. He did not understand.

They chose a house by the bus route. They would enter through the backdoor and sneak up the steps. They would leave in under ten minutes. His “friends” stuck the gun in the waist of his jeans. It was stolen, reported missing in a burglary weeks earlier. Purchased for protection and swept away in a wave of gang violence.

 *****

Afternoon activities differ in different neighborhoods. Working with juveniles, I quickly realized how often Denver burglaries and car thefts are perpetrated by children. Hitting up houses is an afternoon activity for some kids. These kids who will get probation or detention when they’re 17, but who are blown away when they turn 18, do not pass go, do not collect $200 and go straight to prison.

Juvenile crime leads to adult recidivism that leads to massive prison overpopulation where there is a gross lack of funding for rehabilitation, which equates to adult recidivism and more juvenile crime. This crisis stems from a broken social safety net, which includes a failing public educational system, racial inequities, poverty, homelessness, absentee parents, violence, abuse, boredom, amongst many other social ills. An endless list of societal problems that are cyclical where it becomes impossible to decipher where lies the cause and where is the effect.

What is clear when you spend time in the juvenile courtrooms is:

(1)  The majority of juvenile defendants in the criminal justice system have open case files where they are the victims of dependency and neglect.

(2)  The majority of juvenile defendants qualify for the public defender, which means they live in poverty.

*****

Crime is less scary when you are familiar with the perpetrators. When you become acquainted with the humans behind the crime, you understand that the majority of offenders are not the monsters that haunt your nightmares. Of course there are exceptions, but most defendants are individuals with an unfair lot in life – human beings making horrible choices.

Juvenile crime scares me. Again the juveniles themselves are not scary, but what scares me is they just don’t understand. Like my four-year old who doesn’t get that climbing on the furniture may cause her to fall and get hurt. The juvenile defendants don’t understand that a gun is not a prop. They don’t understand that with the slight pull of a trigger finger someone can die.

They don’t understand the simple concept:

Boy pulls trigger of gun –> Victim dies –>Death is forever –>Boy gets life in prison –>Boy is never going home.

Consequences, kids don’t get them.  As a parent I repeat, “No climbing on furniture” as an attorney “Guns are dangerous. Stay out of trouble” until I become blue in the face, but often become frustrated because my daughter and the juveniles in the courtroom never listen. Sometimes lessons aren’t learned until you hit rock bottom. Sometimes it takes a kid is sitting in shackles in a courtroom to learn (and that is the best case scenario).

 *****

This boy was seventeen. Just under the wire, a couple months shy of his eighteenth birthday, he might get juvenile probation, a few months in the county jail when he turns 18, a second chance. I would fight to get him a second chance.

He sat alone in the courtroom. Tears filled his eyes. A choice. A gun. A house. A crime.

He hid behind a cushion.

 

I Know a Guy …

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I know a guy with deep-set dark eyes that sparkle when he smiles.

 

I know a guy that for years never washed his hair because the dirt kept it tame. “I hope the kids have your hair,” he laughed.

 

I know a guy who moved to Colorado and was asked to be a hair model.

 

I know a guy who is extremely handsome, but doesn’t know it. Or maybe he does.

 

I know a guy that listens to endless amounts of sports radio.

 

I know a guy that when it comes to sports (among other things), he is BRILLIANT. Sports trivia, he should be everyone’s ‘phone a friend’.

 

I know a guy who uses aerosol deodorant. Ugh. Years ago when he and his girlfriend backpacked through Europe he “sprayed” his clothes with Right Guard to clean them. His girlfriend experienced chemical asphyxiation each time she hugged him.

 

I know a guy who 13 years later still uses the same noxious substance.

 

I know a guy who does laundry nearly every day and becomes exasperated by the way his wife and daughters shed their clothes with their underwear still in the pants and socks in each pant leg.

 

I know a guy who sings Frozen duets with his daughter in the shower.

 

I know a guy that grew up with no sisters and hardly any friends of the opposite sex, but was happy to grow old surrounded women.

 

I know a guy who didn’t wish for a son, and grew irritated by everyone who presumed he wanted anything other than his daughters.

 

I know a guy who didn’t need a boy, but got a boy.

 

I know a guy that kisses that boy and his girls every day.

 

I know a guy who can’t wait to play sports with his son and daughters.

 

I know a guy who works hard all day supporting his family and comes home to help with dinner, dishes, and bedtime.

 

I know a guy who works extremely hard and tells his wife that she works harder.

 

I know a guy who chooses to spend time with his wife.

 

I know a guy who went camping for the first time in his late twenties and now wants to camp every summer.

 

I know a guy who is truly his wife’s best friend.

 

I know a guy who hates bugs and is scared of snakes.

 

I know a guy who sometimes loses his temper, but knows how to say sorry.

 

I know a guy who loves air conditioning and his wife negotiated a deal that he could control the thermostat if she never had to look at the electric bill when they first co-habitated.

 

I know a guy who is slowly losing control of the thermostat.

 

I know a guy who fills the bath with bubbles and hides princess figures in the tub, so his girls get clean searching for them.

 

I know a guy who gets swept away coloring with his kids, meticulously drawing their favorite cartoon characters out of sidewalk chalk on the fence. Sometimes his wife rolls her eyes, “The kids aren’t coloring anymore … You are supposed to be playing with them!”

 

I know a guy who two years ago got upset when his toddler crushed his beautiful sand castles.

 

I know a guy who now sometimes laughs when his toddler knocks over his block, sand or lego creations.

 

I know a guy who told his wife she was beautiful every day throughout three pregnancies.

 

I know a guy who tells his wife she is beautiful even when she hasn’t showered, brushed her hair or put on makeup.

 

I know a guy who feels pain when his wife cries.

 

I know a guy who loves all things that start with the letter P. Pittsburgh. Pickles. Penguins. Platypus. Perogies. Plott Hounds. This guy loves P so much that when he found out that his daughter’s preschool class had parent volunteers to teach each letter of the alphabet, he knew he must have P week.

 

I know a guy who was crestfallen when another parent signed up for P week.

 

I know a guy whose wife negotiated a letter week trade with an unknown parent because her husband LOVES the letter “P”.

 

I know a guy who is now known as “Mr. Pickle” because he hosted a pickle tasting in his daughter’s classroom for P week.

 

I know a guy who loves fashion and often predicts the upcoming trends.

 

I know a guy who likes to spend a lot of money on obscure designer clothing.

 

I know a guy who buys beautiful clothes for his wife – just because.

 

I know a guy who loves to give gifts and wraps them beautifully.

 

I know a guy who is athletic. He runs fast, throws a ball further than anyone I know and has an amazing free throw.

 

I know a guy who shoots hoops so well that he wins prizes for his children at amusement parks.

 

I know a guy who seems normal, but may be the weirdest guy I’ve ever met.

 

I know a guy addicted to gummies – especially peachy penguins.

 

I know a guy who gets along with octogenarians better than any other group of people.

 

I know a guy who is loyal to no end.

 

I know a guy who loves the Lord of the Rings.

 

I know a guy who must watch the Steelers in real time – no recordings – much to the exasperation of his wife.

 

I know a guy who drinks sweet coffee – Creamer. Sweet and Low. The works.

 

I know a guy who is not afraid to order fruity drinks at a restaurant.

 

I know a guy who can be misunderstood.

 

I know a guy who hates fajitas, the sizzling spotlight.

 

I know a guy who deserves to be in the spotlight.

 

I know a guy who met a girl at a bar.

 

I know a guy who spilled a beer on that girl at the bar … or maybe the girl spilled the beer on him?

 

I know a guy who drove that girl to New York City to meet her father.

 

I know a guy who introduced her to all his grandparents along the way.

 

I know a guy that sat at a diner with her father and told him he wanted to be a pediatric neurosurgeon and discussed his ‘philosophy of love’.

 

I know a guy who decided to be a family practice doctor, so he could spend time with his family.

 

I know a guy who never ate fish – an alleged allergy.

 

I know a guy whose girlfriend convinced him to try fish.

 

I know a guy who now likes sushi.

 

I know a guy who married that girl.

 

I know a guy who is a role model for my son.

 

I know a guy and I hope my daughters find men like him.

 

I know a guy who will be embarrassed by this essay.

 

I know a guy and he knows me.

 

My love – Happy 8th Anniversary – I hope we last forever.

 

 

 

 

 

Three

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You are three!!!! How can it be that my baby is three? You are my firecracker, thunderously loud and blazing in color. You make my eyes twinkle. You are magic and you make me and everyone that you touch feel special. Charming to the nth degree like no one I have ever met.

Your monstrous tantrums and disobedient spirit erased by warm snuggles and kisses with physical force behind them.  Kisses that literally leave marks on my arms and cheeks. Your kisses are 1/3 kiss, 1/3 suction, and 1/3 bite. Your emotions are bold and looming, they march into a room and swallow us whole, coming as quickly as a storm on a hot Colorado summer afternoon. When you are scared, your body physically trembles. When you are mad, you roar. When you are happy, you shout with glee, “this is the best day ever.”  Love, fear, sadness, and anger explode out of you like a physical force.

This year you went to school on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The highlight of those mornings (other than my walks and workouts) was picking you up from school, the energy and excitement that rushed my way as you screamed my name and leapt into my arms. Pure joy, you made me feel special, literally brightened my days. But then there were the icy days – you’d see me and scream at the top of your lungs as if pained, “Mama, I don’t want YOU to pick me up! Where is Nana?” My face reddened as I felt the sting of your words. Do other children say these things? What are her teachers thinking? The ability to make me swoon, or to pierce me like a balloon, quickly and silently deflated.

“Be Nice!” I’d say as I packed your things and carried you from your classroom. “Be Nice,” a refrain echoed often in your presence.

*****

This year you made it clear that you love BOYS. “Mama, I love boys,” words every father fears hearing, we hear on a daily basis. Every day we picked your sister up from her Pre-K class and you confidently marched into her classroom. You greeted your sister who you love, and then flirted endlessly with the boys, “Hi John … Hi Carsten,” you said with a magnetic smile. The boys you greeted were the biggest boys in your sister’s class, the five-year olds in a class of four-year olds. Big John, as we called him, would start hitting himself in the head with his lunch box or any object he had within his clutches, chanting “Ow, ow, ow,” to try to make you laugh. You belly laughed in response, pleased with yourself and your admirers. Each day you chased these boys around your big sister’s classroom and as we walked to the car, you’d hash out what had occurred, “Mom, Carsten didn’t say hi to me today,” you stated seriously, “but John said ‘ow, ow, ow …” you grinned mischievously.

My constant narrator, you always give me the detailed narration of the day. Your sister doesn’t indulge me in this way, but you recite all the details, including who talked to you, who didn’t, if you got in trouble, etc.

“She LOVES the boys in my class,” your sister giggled, amused by your obsession with boys and not yet jealous of the attention you seek amidst her peers.

At the beginning of this year you wanted to be one of the boys. You were in an alliance with Dad (because he is a boy). You insisted on wearing “Prince pajamas” to bed (blue and green pajamas). You always sided with the boys. You and your sister acted out scenes, you adorned in your prince pajamas and your sister in her nightgown. “I want to marry a girl with long hair,” you declared as you paced your bedroom. “Will you marry me?” you asked your sister, kissing her on the cheek. As the year progressed, you decided you wanted to wear princess nightgowns too, but you still prefer the princes and boys.

*****

As an aside, I love two-year olds, not yet influenced by their peers or those around them. They live with abandon, completely unselfconscious. They scream, shout, shriek, laugh, and do not consider how they’re perceived. Pure freedom.

*****

This year came with big changes. At the beginning of the year you moved from your crib to a twin size bed in a shared room with your sister. If given the opportunity you girls will stay up late giggling, talking and playing with your animals. Dad or I must plant ourselves in the chair in your bedroom until you quiet down. Sharing a room kept you girls up later and got the day started earlier than we would have liked. It has not been great for overall sleep in our household, but the bond you have with your sister is incredible.  Best friends. On more than one occasion I have come to your room to find you curled up in your sister’s bed. 

You became a big sister this year! At two and a half years old, you became a big sister to your baby brother Jamie. I remember you holding him for the first time on the couch. You sat seriously on the couch, arms wrapped around your brother. You looked a little worried, “Are you done?” I asked.

“Yes,” you answered immediately, relieved to escape the duty of holding him so carefully.

Sharing your mom with a baby has been difficult, but it is getting easier as each month flies by. This winter whenever you got upset, you cried, “I want my mommy back.” You repeated these words daily and your dad looked at me knowing that as always you found my Achilles heal. You know how to do that, how to find the one thing that will hurt the most, whether it is me, your dad, or your sister, you know how to make us hurt. Incredibly manipulative for a two-year old, “I don’t want to be your sister anymore,” you shouted in the back of the minivan, eliciting immediate tears from your big sister’s eyes. I don’t know where you learned it, but for good or bad, you know that your words have power.

The love you have for your brother grew with each passing day. Now I see the sparkle in your eye as you give him your suction kisses and tell him that soon he will be chasing after you. You scream his name in glee after naps, bring him toys, and sing him songs. You are my big helper. I ask for a burp cloth, “Sure,” you say in your low toned smoker’s voice and you run across the room to retrieve it. God forbid your sister attempts to get the burp cloth first you scream or roar with violent force.

You learned how to use the potty. Wherever you are when you need to go, you pull your pants down and start walking to the bathroom. You walk with your pants around your ankles to the nearest bathroom. Your big sister has told me that this has happened at the playground at school, it happens at the mall, and the supermarket. If you are outside you pull down your pants and squat. I know it is important to break you of this habit, but it is pretty funny.

*****

Your terrible twos were characterized by declarations of “I don’t like you”, deafening roars, spitting, name calling, and temper tantrums. This infuriating and barbaric behavior was easily erased by the passionate hugs, kisses, and declarations of love you tossed wildly to those around you. I hate to admit it, but you can get away with murder. You have more than one of us charmed and wrapped around your finger. You are brilliant, independent, and fun. I was amazed this year by the stories you told to your animals, your ability to focus and put together giant floor puzzles for hours, and the elaborate games you orchestrated with animal and princess figures. Riding your scooter or strider bike around the park, the wind blowing through your wild blonde hair, shouting at the top of your lungs, “THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!” Your enthusiasm sweeps me away in a wave of pure bliss.

You are a glorious independent spirit. Love oozes out of you to all of those around you. A charmer, my fierce firecracker – explosive, bright, brilliant, breathtaking, beautiful, and loud.

I love you so much. I can’t believe you came from me. I can’t believe you are three.

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