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Loosen the Leash

BTMDogIsMyCopilot (http://beyondthemargins NULL.com/btm/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/BTMDogIsMyCopilot1 NULL.jpg)By Nichole Bernier (http://beyondthemargins NULL.com/author/nicholebernier/)

As I’ve mentioned here a few times, we have a young Bernese Mountain Dog. We got her last summer at 8 weeks old and named her Cricket because she was the least graceful thing ever to hop through grass.

She eats. She eats socks. She eats toys. She eats my husband. She eats the house.

Protectively, defensively, we’ve kept her restricted to the main kitchen/family room area of the house. She and the cats eye one another distrustfully through the gates, and when Cricket gets through, it’s off to the races.

When time came for our annual vacation on Martha’s Vineyard a few weeks ago, the owner of the house we rent gave us permission to bring the dog. My husband thought this was great news.

My heart sank. This meant schlepping the gates, the crate. It meant a week with a clenched stomach, wondering what she’d destroy. And yet there was an opportunity to experiment: we’d be in a house without the cats, and were curious to see what would happen if we let her roam free. By which I mean, my husband was curious to see what would happen. I just wanted to be on vacation and maybe sleep in a little and not have to safeguard food on the countertops.

Well lo and behold, she galloped through the place in an introductory way, and then was pretty much done with the crimes and misdemeanors. That week she was like a new dog. She didn’t destroy anything except one straw beach mat, and he was asking for it. No aggression, very little jumping for food. She didn’t even bite my husband. She pretty much just enjoyed following us from room to room. Who took our dog, we asked, and what have you done with her?

When we came home we decided to give peace a chance. And aside from a first day bonanza of chasing the cats and kids, nails raking the hardwoods as she turned the corners, she’s been mostly the same here.

What to make of the change? Using all my advanced animal and child psychology (aka none), I can only conclude that all this time we had an evil feedback system going. She was naughty, so we didn’t trust her. Her freedom was restricted because of that naughtiness, but boredom/frustration was making her worse.

Maybe all she wanted was a little head space, a little more free rein, a little chance to rise to the challenge. Which echoes the messages about teens I’m hearing from fellow parents, now that I’m entering that chute. Too tight a leash and

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Beautiful Little Nonsense #8

stomachThe 5yo had trouble falling asleep last night, haunted by a DVD we rented from the library that spooked him.

“Think about ice cream cones,” I tell him. “Don’t think about the movie.”

Him: “But my body keeps pressing the play button.”

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Beautiful Little Nonsense #7

urn

The 6yo, eying the urn with our old dog’s ashes. “What are ashes like?”

“Sand,” I tell him.

He thinks. “Plus love.”

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Beautiful Little Nonsense #6

mazeThe 4yo is doing a maze, blazing wantonly through solid lines.

Me: “Can’t go through walls, bud.”

Him: “They’re just gates. I push them open.”

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Paddling Blind

kayak2Last week the yoga class I take from time to time decided to meet on the water.

“We’ll visit the swans,” said the instructor Erin as she directed three of us into kayaks. Then she climbed into her own — well, they were all her own, she lives on the pond, and teaches the small class at her home — and pushed off from the shore. “Then we’ll have a little blind paddle, see how it might expand our morning.”

My mornings tend to start in a not very expansive way, something I’m not very proud of. My initial reflex when I open my eyes, in that first lucid moment between dreams and reality, is to do a mental check of the things I know are in store and brace myself for the things I don’t. It feels like there’s usually some unforeseen thing, some blindsider that makes me exhale at the end of the day and say, Wow, I didn’t see that coming. Sometimes I wake up wondering what’s going to be The Thing today. I know this isn’t the most open, optimistic way to greet the day.

“There she is,” Erin called back from under the brim of a floppy pink straw hat, and reached back a muscular arm to hand me her binoculars. Not more than 50 yards away, an enormous swan sat on her large nest, a camel-neck queen on a pedestal of sticks. Her mate drifted watchfully about 30 yards away. “Last year when I sat here once, the cygnets poked out and walked around,” Erin said. We floated there awhile letting our kayaks drift, then back-paddled away with quiet strokes.

When we reached the middle of the pond, Erin told us to close our eyes. “Point yourself in a direction away from anyone else, set your sights on a far point onshore, and try paddling toward it blind. Don’t peek.”

I have sat down to writing that way, trying to ward off distractions by typing with my eyes closed. But that’s sitting stationary. I was never a big fan of pin the tail on the donkey or three legged races. I’ve woken abruptly from nightmares about driving a car blind. Like many people stuck with the label control freak, I tend to be far more comfortable when all of my senses and limbs are in play. Surely Continue reading

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Beautiful Little Nonsense #5

 BeckBalletDrawing

The 4yo, irritated that he has to stop drawing this morning and get to preschool.

“Why did you even sign me up for school? It wastes into my art*.”

*part of his “sister’s ballet recital” oeuvre

 

 

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Beautiful Little Nonsense #4

cattails-21317330

 

The 6yo, biking over a boardwalk through a marshy field, sees tall stands of cattails.

“Mom, look!” he says. “It’s the way corn-dogs grow!”

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful Little Nonsense #3

socks

 

I put unmatching white socks on the 4yo.

He grabs the miscolored toe seams, clearly disturbed.

“These do not rhyme!”

 

 

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Beautiful Little Nonsense #2

Mint-leaves-2007A little “Who’s on First” with the 4yo and 6yo after their dentist appointment.

The 6yo: “Did they ask you if you like mint?”
The 4yo: “I like mint.”
The 6yo: “That’s not what I asked. I asked you if THEY asked you if you like mint.”
The 4yo: “Yes, I like mint.”
The 6yo: “NO! I asked you if THEY asked you…”
The 4yo: “Don’t tell me no! I do too like mint.”

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Beautiful Little Nonsense #1

Hoboken-Walking-Tour-map pic

When time is short, and I don’t have much time for writing at length beyond work-related projects, there’s one type of writing (if you can call it writing) that consistently gives me pleasure: recording the beautifully absurd, gorgeous tiny nonsense my kids say. It takes one minute to jot it down, or two minutes to forget it forever. 

The 8yo, when my novel came out in paperback a year after the hardcover:

“Mom, if your book is really popular, will you be able to read in places like Japan and Hoboken?”

 

 

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