Archive for April, 2007

Of Jasper, of course!

(Children? I have children?)


Jasper is oozing boredom from every pore. I couldn’t get a good shot of it, but his eyes are open, just bored.

T is a sucker for punishment. If Jasper is chasing him around and nipping his butt in a stupid puppy attempt to play, and we grab Jasper to prevent further abuse, instead of taking the moment of respite to head for high ground, the dumb cat will sit down right there. Here, he decides the comfiest place in the house is on the same couch Jasper has settled on. Check out Jasper’s eye, as he tries to decide whether T’s tasty bum is worth moving for.




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When we decided to get a dog, I banked on him lasting 15 years (doodles are long-lived and my cousin’s much-loved dog lasted 15 years, so mine should too). The cats are coming up on 3 years old, and since they live a bit longer than dogs, I figure they’ll make it to about 18 and all pop off about the same time. I also realized that Boo will be 19 in 15 years and will have recently left for university, or whatever post-high school adventure she decides upon.

I gloated about this to everyone, my great planning. I’d get rid of the last kid and all the animals at the same time and be free, free!

But as I was taking Jasper for a walk tonight, I was reading a dog memoir (there are tons of them out there, and I’ve been making my way through them all). In the essay I was reading, the author was describing his aquisition of a second dog. He needed a second, he said, because if his first one should die unexpectedly and he was suddenly dogless, he’d be bereft. I thought forward 15 years, thinking of how I’ll feel if, as all goes as planned, Jasper lives until I’m 55. How will I feel then, losing my dog?

It was then that I realized that, if no car or unexpected illness ends a pet’s life early, I’ll lose everyone at once. What the hell was I thinking? What if I don’t feel free? What if I just feel alone?

I really don’t know how I’ll feel 15 years hence. Maybe all the pets will be old and needy and annoy the hell out of me. Maybe they’ll die early. Maybe I’ll be delighted to be caring for nothing once again, as I initially assumed. But maybe, as my kids stop needing me, having pets that still do will mean more to me.

Of course, it is too late to do anything about it now. I’m not getting another animal and I’m sticking with the ones I’ve got, so I guess I’ll just see how it all plays out.

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Now that I am doggy obsessed, it drives me crazy that I can’t take my dog more places. Restaurants and grocery stores I understand, but I want to take my dog everywhere else.

I was whining about this after taking Boo and Asher to the park for half and hour while Maya was at her piano lesson. When we got there, I realized that of course there were ‘no dog’ signs. Too late. I was there with the dog and my kids wanted to play. I chose the bench farthest away from the action and had Jasper lie down at my feet which, being incredibly lazy obedient, he did the whole time. It didn’t take long before he had several admirers and fortunately no one complained.

I complained, though. I complained all the way home. I said, “He’s a good dog. He doesn’t jump or poop in the sand or bark or chase anything. He should be allowed in the park!” Maya said, “Yes, but just because Jasper is good doesn’t mean all dogs are good. Lots of dogs would jump and poop and bug the kids, so they can’t let dogs in the park.” I said, “They don’t have to let them all in, just the good ones.” She said, “Have you ever met anyone who will admit their dog isn’t a good dog?” Then she went into a false voice and said, “Oh, I can’t believe he pooped on the slide! He’s never ever done that before. Oh, I’m so sorry she jumped on your baby. She never normally jumps!”

Don’t you hate it when your kid has to be the voice of reason? I did know that, of course, but I still sulked.

One fun thing I’ve been doing is taking Jasper to pick the kids up from school. The days Boo stays for the afternoon, I get her at 3:30. We then walk across the parking lot to the older kids school and Boo plays on the play structure with other kids waiting for older siblings while I hang with Jasper. He’s always on a short, bright red leash and I keep him to the side. Kids mob us, though and lots of them now know his name.

One of Boo’s good friends is afraid of dogs, as is her mother and siblings. But when Jasper started appearing, she’d watch the other kids pat him great longing, coming closer, then running back to her mother’s legs as I showed her the leash and promised he couldn’t reach her. After a couple of days, when I held his head to stop potential licking, she got all the way to him and rubbed his thigh for a moment and was so pleased with herself. Her mother was pretty happy too. Avoiding the dog herself, she told me that she hoped this would help her daughter break the trend. She now pets Jasper regularly, as long as I hold his head.

Yesterday, when we went to get the kids, there was a huge hole some kids had dug at the edge of the sandy area. Jasper was delighted. He responds to sand much the same way he used to respond to snow, loving to leap around in it. I keep that to a minimum with kids around, but didn’t see any harm in letting him jump in the hole, where he happily dug away at it. Mostly, he was digging at the edges and actually filling the hole in, a safe move with all those kids running around.

I was chatting with another mom and several kids were watching Jasper and egging him on when a parent I don’t know marched up to us, bristling with attitude before she even reached us. “I hope you are going to fill that in!” she ordered. I said mildly, “Well, we didn’t dig it, but the dog seems to be doing a good job of filling it in right now.” She didn’t believe me, choosing instead to believe I’d lie to her in front of my children. “Uh huh,” she said, “Well, he seems awfully comfortable in there and that hole could be very dangerous.” I agreed that he was very comfortable (which has to do with what, exactly?) and reiterated that it was a good thing he was doing us the favour of filling it in.

She stared at us. We all stared back at her. Jasper dug. Off she huffed.

A few moments later, the on-duty teacher appeared to ask me to not bring Jasper any more. I know and like her, and pointed out that since I’d seen many other people bringing their dogs to pick-up, I had no idea it would be an issue. She was clearly uncomfortable with what she was doing, saying, “Well, it is officially the rules.” The vice-principal happened to be outside, so she called her over, passing the buck.

The VP told me that it was the rule, since they were concerned about children being afraid, but as about half a dozen children were massaging various parts of Jasper’s body as she said this, we all saw that it didn’t hold much water and the kids whined, “We won’t see Jasper any more? Aww, that’s not fair!” So we agreed that I’d keep him to the back of the property from now on. At least we’ll still be outside and the kids can come to him.

It’s not a doggy world out there.

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Calm Puppy

I took Jasper to the vet the other day for an extra check up, because he is so darn mellow that we kept getting comments and we finally got nervous. He just does not act like a puppy. If I stop to chat with someone while walking him, he frequently lies down on the road to wait until I am finished. When bring him as I pick Boo up from school and he’s surrounded by 8 four-year-olds all wanting to pat him – puppy heaven – he actually lies down when I tell him to, so they can all massage his back without fear of doggy kisses. Really, freakishly calm. In my imagination, I had him dead from a heart defect before he reaches a year.

Anyway, the vet gave him a clean bill of healthy. He is perfect, just calm. Okay, no more looking that gift horse in the mouth.

Of course, because I did that, he was a wild boy last night, charging around the house, leaping on and off beds, snatching the kids’ PJs from their hands before they could put them on. He industriously unmade my bed as I tried to put new sheets on it, with the kids shrieking in laughter and egging him on.

At one point, he grabbed Asher’s homework and Asher yelled, “No! No! Get it back! No teacher is ever going to believe me if I say the dog ate my homework!!” We rescued it, but it would have been funny.

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Tonight is the start of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day for fallen soldiers. Last year, I was in Israel at this time. While there are memorial services in Canada, at Jewish Community Centres and synagogues, it doesn’t feel the same, obviously. I feel cut off, especially with J in Israel right now.

Last year, we went to a memorial service conducted by a group of students on erev Yom Hazikaron. They were kids who had graduated high school already and should have been in the army, but had deferred it while they were taking a special year-long course. I can’t remember the exact name of it, but it was basically a leadership course, where they learned to be better volunteers and future leaders. These weren’t kids who were avoiding service. They were kids who were so devoted to the future of their country that they were spending extra time learning how to be of service.

After the service, we broke up into groups and meet with several of them, to learn more about them. They were all still teenagers, of course. They looked no different than the children of friends. In fact, one girl in our group was tall, thin and blonde and looked very young and very much like Maya. I was struck by the similarity and the fact that this girl was heading into the army soon, and that most of her friends were already there.

They told us how they felt about going into the army, how afraid they were for their friends and themselves. Everybody cried. We Canadians cried at the sacrifice these children make for not only their country, but for us, the Jews in the diaspora who rely on them to keep Israel safe for us. They cried not only from their own fear, but at the realization that people half-way across the world cared this much about them and what they do. They were shocked as we thanked them, and one girl asked, “Do your children really know about us? Care about this country they’ve never seen?” I told her my kids sing Hatikvah (the Israeli national anthem) along with Oh Canada every day at school.

The next day, our group made its way to the memorial for fallen border guards. Eleven o’clock approached and we rushed up to the top, where you can overlook the country for miles around. We made it up and barely had a chance to absorb the breathtaking view before the air raid sirens went off. Even though I expected it, it gave me a moment of sheer terror, knowing how many people had been forced to run for cover at the very same sound, and how it could really happen again, at any moment.

The thing about Israel is that it is all so immediate. Remembrance Day in Canada is mostly about the past, honouring ancient veterans who remember wars decades old. (Sadly, Afghanistan is changing that, but not anywhere near on the scale of Israel.) As the siren goes off, people stop their cars at the side of the road, get out and stand there until it is over, a remarkable sight.

As we read the names of the fallen border soldiers at the monument, the list continued unbroken, up to the present. Those kids we talked to the evening before all knew someone who had died in service – if only a friend’s older brother or the cute boy in a grade ahead in school. No one is untouched.
My wish for Israel is that Yom Hazikaron become like Canada’s Remembrance Day, a holiday in which the the majority of people who have personal memories of war are old, and their numbers growing smaller each year.


(Soldiers at the memorial for fallen border guards.)

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These were our season firsts for today:

Open windows.
The first flower poked out from under the dead leaves.
No need to wipe slush or mud of the dog’s paws after a walk.
Bought popsicles and, two seconds after handing them to my kids, 5 other kids showed up at the door.
Ate dinner outside.
Ending the day with kids with dirty faces, hands and feet.



The nice weather takes a bit of the sting of the fact that J is off to Israel for 10 days without me. I went with him last year at this time and decided there is no place I’d rather be than Israel in the spring. It was so beautiful and lush. Everything smelled so good. It just added a whole new dimension to a country I already love for so many other reasons, and it kills me there he gets to be there and I don’t. I actually feel a yearning in my chest to be there. I miss it, possibly in a way only Jew who doesn’t live there can.

(this is me at the Southern Wall with my rabbi, reading from the Torah for the first time)


I am looking forward to a lovely weekend, though. Maya is at a friend’s cottage for the weekend and I always find that when you take one child out of the equation, the other two are much easier to deal with. It isn’t just that I find it less difficult, but they are actually better behaved. Less fighting. It doesn’t matter which kid you remove, the effect is the same. I totally don’t get that. I am sure in families with only two siblings those children fight as much as my kids do, but reduce mine to two and they don’t fight.

So it was a very peaceful evening, except for Asher’s nightly tears over the loss of his best friend. When he was four years old and in junior kindergarten, a little boy arrived from Israel with his family. Of course, he didn’t speak a word of English and worse, he had a very difficult time learning. He is just one of those people to whom languages do not come easily, because even now, four years later, he has a wicked Hebrew accent and his English isn’t great.

Anyway, we only heard a little about him from Asher, who said told us about the kid and that he was making friends with him despite the language barrier. Only at parent-teacher interviews did I get the whole story, which was that other kids were ignoring and sometimes teasing this little guy, but Asher decided to take a different route and set out to make friends, communicating in sign language, determinedly teaching the boy English and quickly learning useful Hebrew phrases (“Don’t go there,” “Come here,” “Take this,”) to communicate with him.

Their Hebrew teacher told me at the time, “To tell you the truth, I didn’t think Asher stood out much at the beginning of the year. He was just an average little boy, part of the crowd, but I want you to know that the way your son has treated T has been remarkable. He is a kind and gentle soul, and mature beyond his years.” I practically burst with pride.

T’s family clearly felt the same way, embarrassing us with the extravagance of the gifts they give Asher each year at his birthday and Hanukkah. They credit him with teaching their son English, which seems extreme, but they do.

The truth is, the kid is annoying as all get-out. He’s wild and out-of-control. He is utterly undisciplined, destructive and irritating. But he listens to my son. At Hanukkah that first year, we had his family over for a party and he rampaged through our house, driving the other kids nuts until Asher barked out a command in Hebrew, then he’d stop whatever he was doing and run right over.

Now their time here has come to an end and they are returning home. And my son is heartbroken. Not only is he losing his best friend but, he admitted to me, T is the only boy in the class who he feels is as ‘dumb’ as he is. Clearly also ADD, as well as hyperactive, T sits at the teacher’s other side during class work and while he is way worse off than Asher, Asher sees a kindred spirit and is now being left with a group of high achievers and no one like him. He is fine during the day, but he cries himself to sleep every night.

They are leaving in a month. It is going to be a long month.


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I got an actual award! Yogamum nominated me for a Thinking Blogger award. This is a cool idea that originated here. It is now my job to nominate five blogs that make me think. I don’t think I’m allowed to go backwards, which means I can’t nominate Yogamum, which I would otherwise do. (And, like Yogamum, I can’t figure out how to put the icon thingy on my sidebar. God knows, I tried.)

I actually haven’t been doing much blog-reading lately (which shows in my own readership, I’m afraid), but I’ll give it the old college try here.

The reason I didn’t post this sooner is that the blog I most want to nominate, I can’t. It is someone I encouraged to start blogging, and was delighted to find she’s an even better and more insightful writer than I’d even expected. But. I know her in person too, and as she wants her blog anonymous, I’m not linking to her. Her name will never cross my lips. Her blog will never cross my blog. But her stuff is so good that I’m giving her a space anyway. Such is the nature of blogging. She know who she is, at least.

Number two, a garden of nna mmoy. She’s a Canadian mother of a toddler who writes on all kinds of social issues, the nature of mommyhood, special needs children and the world, and she always makes me think.

Three. The Yarn Harlot. Okay, if you don’t knit, this one might not you think as much. But if you do, it will. Not only will it make you think about knitting, and how you really must dig out that cable knit sweater and get it done already, but she discusses the nature of knitting and has a go at social justice too. And she’s a doula and a Canadian, so I love her.

A Mother in Israel also makes me think. She’s an Orthodox mom who made aliyah (moved to Israel from elsewhere) and not only has many interesting things to say about being Orthodox in Israel, but on mommyhood too.

Okay, I give up. I only got to four and Boo is bugging me for the computer and the sun is shining and my gardening is beckoning. Does this mean I lose my award?

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