Monday, March 25, 2013

He's a Joiner

Boy's school in Estonia wanted us to pull him out at the half-day, hire a new nanny, and sign him up for sports. Well, they clarified, not really sports because he doesn't do well in a group and it would stress him out. Just hire a phys ed major to, I don't know, run him around in circles? He doesn't stop moving and that's a problem in school. We didn't do that, because Holy Childcare Management Nightmare. It would have been too much and not as effective as they thought it would have been. By most mid-afternoons, he's nothing if not overtired. That's not the time I would run him around.

I did get their point about the group dynamic. Boy misses kids, though. He is an introvert and can only take groups in small doses, but between the five or so hours they spend at the gym each week and the occasional playdate with their cousin, they don't see a lot of other kids. He's on the waitlist for swim lessons. He said no to art classes (still working on that one) and no to gymnastics. I'm secretly searching for a chess teacher. When I cautiously mentioned soccer or t-ball, he eagerly yelped, "Yes! Soccer!"

And so soccer it is.

He starts next week. He slept with his new soccer ball last night.

Can I Jedi Mindtrick you into seeing a clean house?

P.S.--In the chapters of Geographic Single Mom, you will find one labeled "The Chapter in which I Buy Him A Cup Because I Don't Know and Then Am Told He Doesn't Need One for Soccer but He Loves His Cup and Has Incorporated It into His Make-believe Play about Soccer."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Brains

Scene: A somewhat smelly unshowered post-gym mom drives her oft-complaining children to Whole Foods to spend too much on a bottle of water and some dinner following their errand. In the backseat, two children: one in a fleece polka dot hoodie, face filled with elephant limbs; the other pensive, fingers in mouth.

Boy (extra politely): Excuse me, Mom. Do zombies have skeletons?

Mom: Yeah, because they are people that were bitten by zombies, died, and then became zombies themselves. People have skeletons, so zombies have skeletons.

Boy (somewhat exasperated): Yeah, I know that. I mean, the first zombie. Did he have a skeleton? The first zombie wasn't bitten by another zombie.

Mom: Well, I think the first zombie got a virus, died, and then became a zombie and ate brains. So, that person would have a skeleton too. (As a panicked afterthought) But don't worry, that's just a make-believe virus, not like ones you and I get.

Boy: Okay, so the first zombie had a skeleton. Thanks.

I hope he won't be disappointed if they don't cover Zombie Anatomy in school. And I hope his school won't be disappointed if he wants them to.

Implementation

SUMMARY This post contains the nitty gritty on our behavior management plan, as developed by our behavioral psychologist at Kennedy Krieger. It also contains a read out on some of my biggest challenges as a mother. Feel free to skip if the nitty gritty is not useful. Several of you are facing similar challenges, or have toddlers who may present similar challenges, and might find all this helpful. END SUMMARY

(That was for all you cable-writers out there.)

The first part of Sunday was shaping up to be horrendous. I don't even remember what was happening, but I remember it was all wrong and all I could think is: how can I get through this day, let alone a year? Then the normal/maybe not so normal self-loathing thoughts of how I'm a terrible mother with no patience and my kids deserve better and so on and so forth. I think Boy was punching cats. Or something. It was rough.

I had attempted to bring the kids to the gym for the first time, so they could see the kids' club and I could get a brief workout in. Girl was dressed and rarin' to go--she always loves to get out--but Boy would. not. move. Every single attempt to get him dressed wasn't working, and all he would do is scream how much he wanted to die and was never going to leave the house and was certainly not going to go to the gym. Then the cat punching. Or something. Again, details are fuzzy.

I started to despair, and at that moment I felt a kinship with every teacher he's ever had. Boy is smart and affectionate, but he's unpredictable and at times a bit of a terrorist, in that he will hold everyone in the room hostage to his whims. I knew I couldn't let him win, but I also knew I couldn't take him to the gym and a) have it go horribly and have them kick him out or b) have it go horribly and he'd never want to return. I started to panic, had a rushed call with my mom in which I lamented my lot in life, and then it hit me:

Let's get this behavior management program on the road.

This was the whole reason I'm home, right? Right. We couldn't fully implement his program in Estonia, because it was just not possible to cross the cultural barriers to manage it while working full time. We couldn't implement it the first few weeks we were in Colorado because we were moving and there was a lot of iPad time in order to accomplish anything. But now we were by ourselves, our house was livable, and we weren't setting our schedule around vendors anymore. Time to get cracking.

I tossed the angry child and his sister in the car and drove to the teacher store, where I loaded up on behavior charts of all types and sizes, a lesson plan book for me, bulletin board paper and border for our very own word wall, and a few other teaching items. He has to be ready for kindergarten in August, and I had some work to do.

The thrust of his plan is anathema to some: I address the behavior, not the emotion. It sounds counterintuitive, but when you have a violent child who doesn't express himself verbally (he does now, incessantly, but remember we started dealing with this when he was still a toddler), you get used to verbalizing emotions for him. So for years we have been super attuned to his needs and frustrations, which is normally great, but as he developed a huge vocabulary and reached an age where his behavior expectations were such that in no way could we write off, say, biting as just a phase, he needed an adult to interpret everything for him. This is how every school he's ever been in (to be fair, two) both said he essentially needed one teacher assigned to him all the time. He could express himself however he wanted, because the adult was going to say "I see you feel...., let's...." Well, okay, that's great with a two year old, but he's almost five. He needs to learn to self-regulate.

This is not to say we aren't supposed to care about his emotions. We certainly are. It's just that, except for emergencies or moments of pain, it's okay to let him get frustrated and angry and figure out how to deal with it. Without violence. The violence was so prevalent that we didn't let him do that, but that's not a long term strategy for success. So I am supposed to address the emotion when it's presented calmly. If he's frustrated, angry, sad, excited--whatever--I engage with him when he presents that in a way that is acceptable. My crunchy tendency is to say, well shouldn't we validate all feelings? Yes, says the psychologist, but feelings and manifestations are not the same thing, and that lesson is a key one. Being upset with me because I used a block he wanted is legit. Screaming that he hates me and that I need to put back or, all too often, throwing a block at me or trying to bite, certainly isn't. So I keep on playing with that block, deflecting the attack, not making eye contact, and calmly saying "try that again." The absolute second he calms down and asks me for the block back I specifically  and enthusiastically praise the calm way he asked for it, and give it to him. Or don't, and tell him I needed it for my tower but let's work out a solution. You know, those human interactions we wish the road rage types could practice.

It boils down to this:

1) Really ignore negative behavior (no eye contact, no getting red in the face, no yelling, no engagement). If you need to intervene during dangerous behavior, say when a kid is throwing blocks, you walk over and take the blocks away without words and without eye contact. When a kid is four, he knows why you are taking them. Exposition is unnecessary.

2) Praise specific behavior in an over-the-top and immediate way. "You're doing great!" isn't as valuable as "You calmly put your toys back in the box. That's awesome!"

3) Schedules schedules schedules. Post them everywhere, so the child knows what comes next and what he or she has to look forward to. Teachers do this with their "Flow of the Day."

4) Charts charts charts. Reward the hell out of good behavior...give the kid a goal that is attainable but also missable so that they have something that requires a little improvement on their part. Behavior charts, "first/then" charts (that's been huge for us...don't say "if you ___, then you can __" because then it's an option!), stoplights. There are a lot of options, all part of the teachers' toolkit as well.

5) Give directions properly. I am the worst at my verbal tics. As adults, we make things polite by saying, "Could you?" or "Can you?" or "It would be great." As the psychologist asked me: is it really an option? If it is--and sometimes it is--then ask it like it is one. Kids are verbal literalists. If it's something that must happen, phrase it as such: "I need you to x." Give directions within arms length in a normal speaking voice.

6) Follow up. Our plan uses the following strategy: count to five in your head (not out loud), repeat the direction and add that if the child doesn't do it, you will help them do it. Then do it. For Boy, the best example at the doctor's office was his shoes: he took them off at the beginning of the session, and when it was time to go he didn't even acknowledge my request to put them on. The doctor told him to do it, waited five beats, reminded him and said she would help him if he didn't do it. He didn't do it. So she took his hand, put it on his shoe, then started putting his shoe on for him. His dignity was insulted and he started screaming screaming that he wanted to do it himself, digging his nails into her hands. She calmly, without eye contact, informed him that he had an opportunity and chose not to do it, so the consequence is now she will do it for him. Then she pried his nails off her. As soon as she was done, he took them off. And so it went. The next day, he put his shoes on by himself.

7) Make rewards meaningful but easy on you. Don't give dessert, make it a reward! Don't allow iPad time, make it a reward! Rewards should only rarely cost money and always be something a child genuinely enjoys. When Boy was three, we were buying crappy little toys he could earn by accumulating coins (read: poker chips). In the end, we were out a ton of cash and had a ton of plastic toys we didn't need around the house. I find iPad time or a TV show or dessert to be more meaningful for everyone. (Or picking the museum we go to or which restaurant we eat at or...you get the idea).

8) It gets worse before it gets better. This has been very true. The first month after our trip to Baltimore was constant despair for me. I was scratched, hit, bitten. He told me he hated me regularly (current version: telling me he wants to die).

And yesterday was no different.

I was really proud of myself. The night before I had created a chore chart for Boy that listed his responsibilities (clean up Legos, brush teeth, be gentle with pets, etc.). He helped me make one for myself:


I have a lot more chores.*

We made a chart just for mealtime, and he could earn stickers for staying in his chair, using utensils, asking to be excused, and clearing his plate from the table. Twenty stickers on the chore chart equals twenty minutes of iPad time (achievable every two to three days). Ten stickers on the meal chart equals dessert (last night was hot chocolate).

When the kids woke up, they had a great flow of the day up in their little hallway. We went over it. I told Boy that good behavior at the gym meant 15 whole minutes of iPad. He dutifully got into play clothes all on his own, went to the gym, and did well. He had a minor meltdown in the store afterward, but held it together during rest time and even learned some new words on our word wall while Girl was napping. Later, he was upstairs while I helped her in the bathroom downstairs. I had set up an activity for them (reading for him, colors and shapes for her), and I was feeling confident that our program was going to be effective and helpful for all three of us.

I brought Girl upstairs, eager to do our activity and happy with the way our day was going.

Boy had taken a marker and scribbled all over my schedule, moving parts of it and taking other parts away. He had take then same marker to the activities I set up, covering the work I had done with blue marker.


He looked viciously at me, as if challenging me to say something about it. My inclination was to lose it. In my head all I could think is that we had turned our life upside down and I was doing the best I could, on my own, while his dad was in a war zone, all to give him a better chance. I wanted to send him to his room, tell him he was awful, and then give up. But all that is horrible to lay at the feet of even the most difficult four year old. Plus, "Use a calm voice" was on my chore chart.

So I cried. I fake cried. I was angry and frustrated enough to cry, but I wasn't going to. So I squeezed some tears out, told him I was doing this for him to make his day easier, and that it really hurt me that he ruined it. I looked up to find him genuinely remorseful. He hugged me, told me he was "really really sorry for ruining your hard work." He did assure me he'd do it again next time he's mad, but we'll work on that. Rather than dwell on it, I recreated the activity and he read a bunch of sentences.

This morning, I had a new flow of the day set up.



So far it's intact and he earned his 15 minutes of iPad time for being great at the gym.

It's an ongoing struggle, but I know that consistency is going to be key.

There are a lot of parents who might not be comfortable with this. One school would prefer that he just behave or face consequences--corporal or not. That's just not our kid. Another would prefer that he be given the deference we'd give an adult, out of respect. That's just not our kid. I respect him, but there are certain things required of a functioning member of society. I'm with Louis CK on this one; sometimes you just need to put your damn shoes on. I'll let you know if this works the way I hope it will, but it definitely gives us structure, reference points, and goals. Girl likes the schedule too, and I even convinced her it was naptime by pointing to it. Ultimately, this reduces the number of negative interactions we have, as I just do not engage on most of the negative behavior. It's easier on our relationship.

I know from experience this is how classrooms in the U.S. function. Fingers crossed, we might finally be heading down the right path.

*Yep, on Sunday I neither showered nor put on clean clothes. Woot.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Oxygen

So far homeownership has been akin to what I imagine a fast bleed must be like. Small purchases, big purchases...I'm constantly purchasing. The fence company is on day two of their build, Girl's super expensive 3-day-blinds just went up on day 14 (that's a rant for another time), and I just got a landscaping design and proposal that will require me to sell at least part of my liver.

Yesterday was my mom's last day in town. In the afternoon, she started doing her typical mom thing of straightening up unsorted piles and organizing a bit. I stopped her and told her what I wanted more than anything was to play with the kids while I left the house alone for the last time ever. She understood.

I don't have any non-PJ pants at the moment, so I went to try on jeans. I attempted to pull on a couple pairs, when I realized that what I really needed was a gym membership. I left the shop, drove straight to the closest gym with a daycare, and joined. I didn't hesitate to toss significant change at the personal training program. I start with a trainer on Tuesday and I fervently hope Boy won't get uninvited from their kids' center.

In an effort to squeeze as much as I could out of my mom's last couple hours in Colorado, I took the dog on a run this morning. Well, I ran, Dali trotted along like it was nothing, which was sort of insulting but no matter. My first conclusion is: where have all the oxygens gone? It's like some oxygen-stealing goblin flies around and steals alllll of the molecules and brings them to sea level, because there sure as hell aren't any left here.

To be fair, Estonia is essentially sea level. Exhibit A: there is no word to distinguish a hill from a mountain (both are "mägi"), as there aren't any of the latter and there are hardly any of the former. Exhibit B: Big Egg Mountain isn't. And when I ran (read: plodded) along the Gulf of Finland, passing a friend who had come out to clap for me, around mile 8 of my half marathon, I declared that the whole experience was worse than childbirth and whatever my body was doing at that moment, it was certainly not efficiently processing oxygen.

This is all to say, maybe it's me. Although it's also definitely the altitude. But it's really mostly me. For all the many commitments and contracts and purchases of the past few days, this is the one I'm most excited about: a little mom time, some great exercise, and hopefully more than a little self-confidence. Despite the perks of working motherhood (salary, adult time, you can sit down occasionally, I don't carry anyone at the office), fitness was the one thing I constantly sacrificed. I was gone from the house more than ten hours of the day and when I was home I was cooking, cleaning, reading stories, etc. The idea that I would take an hour of what time I had left and exercise just seemed, well, exhausting. I needed it, and I should have done it, but here we are. A fresh start.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Love

video

Falling Short

Boy opened the front door yesterday to throw out his apple core, "so the bugs can eat it," and I added a compost pile to my growing list of domestic aspirations. Like many Washingtonians, I strive to overachieve, and though I fall short regularly and spectacularly, I cannot stop pinning DIY detergents and fabric organizers and memory books.

When Husband and I were debating how best to handle this massive shift to one stay-at-home parent, he told me that I needed to direct his ambition. That he was going to be ambitious was a given, but I had to tell him whether I wanted him to have career ambition or stay-at-home-dad ambition. I am similar, and so I strive to can, and sew, and generally make a home.

I haven't added "grow kale" to my list, but I figure with a sleeve of tattoos and at least one bird-print dress, I'm one pin away from growing some in a repurposed crate. I know my children will eye a kale smoothie with intense skepticism, as would I, but it seems to be what I should be aiming for, so aim I shall.

It would be great if I could pretend that's not how this ambition works, that I'm not competitive with myself and the world, but that would be a lie and you all would know it, so let's just dispense with such notions now.

Stepping back from the Service is harder than I thought it would be. I squeezed in a few precious minutes to read the Washington Post the other day, and as I read "Secretary Kerry" over and over again it hit me that the Department moves on without me. His first day was my last, and that was just one of many changes that will surely come. I know when I return the software will be different, the procedures will be different, and--possibly--immigration and nationality law in itself could be different. My friends and colleagues will be promoted over me. We are an intensely competitive service, staffed with people who genuinely like their work and each other, but who all aspire to superstar status. I am that way by nature, but I've had to step back for my kids. Even if Boy were your average child, I can't work 14 hour days with two small kids at home and a husband with a full-time job. So I end up in a life were I spend most of my day giving not-quite-enough at the office, and the rest of it giving not-nearly-enough at home. It's tough on your soul.

I'm hoping to enjoy this break from paid employment, however long it will be, as a break from the pressure and competition and, in my case, the omnipresent sense of inadequacy. I am still me, though, and as I finished re-upholstering our dining room chairs, I put out a cloth and called the kids over to paint embroidery hoops for Girl's room (pictures will soon explain). I whipped up some pumpkin bread this morning, and after the kids wake up from their nap, my mom and I will caravan to the other side of the city to pick up some great mid-century modern vintage vinyl chairs for my porch. I joined the local food co-op this morning, I bought kids chalk for their new chalkboard wall, and I even took a shower. It sounds great, right? I'm somewhat productive, I'm nesting, and I'm even clean.

All I can think is I haven't planted any kale and I haven't been anybody's staff assistant. And so my list keeps growing, passing aspirational and approaching delusional, as I calculate not how I can have it all, but how I can do it all. I'm still hoping that some day, in some way, I'll finally walk on water.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Real Estate by Skype: A Buyer's Guide

Another FS blogger wondered how to go about buying a house sight unseen. When I put something on the Facepage in January about putting in a bid on a house we've only seen by Skype and experiencing a heart attack waiting for the seller's response, a lot of dips wrote that they've done the same thing. One friend noted he's still never seen a place he bought several years ago. Another noted he and his wife went straight through closing without ever seeing their house. Such is the expat life.

Here are my tips. Keep in mind that I know really nothing about buying a house, but I am currently occupying one and no one has sent the police over to tell me I did the whole thing wrong and I'm actually a very well-established squatter. I mean, I just painted, so that would be awkward.

1) Get a good agent. We love USAA and naturally took them up on their MoversAdvantage offer. As part of the program (well, as all of the program, really), they set you up with a broker in your market. If you close with that person, you get cash on closing. It's a nice sum of cash in any other situation, but in the context of buying a house, it's not a lot and it's certainly not worth maintaining the client-broker relationship if you aren't comfortable. For a number of reasons, the realtor USAA selected for us wasn't the best fit. Husband's friend from college recommended her broker/next door neighbor and I checked out his agency's website (Green Door Living, for those in the market for a house in Colorado). They were absolutely perfect for us.

What does that look like? Well, in our first conversation Christian told me about the current Denver market and what to expect (low inventory, booming demand, bidding wars). He spoke directly with our lender to make sure everything was going well. He spoke knowledgeably about each neighborhood, each street, and house construction. He was up for the long-distance buying process and understood our urgency. When we narrowed it down to seven or eight houses in two different areas of the city, he took my aunt and only Skyped me from two of them. He felt confident in our needs enough that he ruled out others for being too small, too structurally unsound, etc. We found this house on their first day of looking, but I had a couple reservations about the block. He drove back over to the house, called me, walked the block, and talked about everything he saw. He looked into the vacant house next door and found out that it was purchased in December. It made me feel really comfortable with putting a bid in long-distance and once we did put in an offer, he stayed on top of the seller to get a quick response. He held my hand through the buying process. Just everything about our broker-client relationship was great and that trust is imperative when doing all this sight-unseen.

Can you tell I like my broker?

2) Skype or Facetime into showings and the inspection. Use Google Streetview to get a sense of the neighborhood and surroundings, but keep in mind that it might not reflect changes on flipped properties, depending on when it was last updated. I am an idiot, and I kept wondering why our block was so gloomy and rundown compared to the surrounding blocks. Um, that's because it was a stormy day when Google Maps was on your block, and normal Colorado sun on the other blocks, you moron. Really, I'm that dumb.

3) Ask questions that normally don't need to be asked, because you would normally be there to see the house. How far is it from busy streets? What do the neighboring properties look like? What's the closest restaurant? Whatever matters to you, ask.

4) Ask your broker as early in the process as possible how contracts will work in your state. Can you do electronic signatures? Do you need access to a scanner or fax on short notice? Be prepared to hustle once you want to put in a bid. We were frantically signing things electronically to beat out another offer, but had we been required to sign and fax, we would have hired a sitter and camped out in the office for the night.

5) When working with your lender, consider whose income to put on your application. Many FS families have one consistent bread-winner. We had two until this month, but only put Husband's income on our application. They check your employment about a week before closing to confirm nothing has changed and nothing will change, and it would have derailed us entirely if they had to ask about my LWOP. If you work at the Embassy but don't have a job lined up for when you return to the States, consider whether you should put your current income on your mortgage application (this may be common sense for most people, but it wouldn't have occurred to me to not mention my employment until we went through this).

6) If you are going to buy from overseas, or anywhere really, go onto Employee Express, check your TSP address, change it to your actual mailing address (or a trusted friend or relative's, for quicker delivery). If you don't have your password, request one after your address has been changed. It took forever to get a new password, which meant it took forever to provide our lender my TSP statements.

7) If you are doing a TSP loan for your down payment or any part of the housing process, fill in the application online, print it, have your spouse sign it, and fax it in BUT ONLY ONCE. It will delay the process a bit if you do it more than once (speaking from experience). If you aren't sure whether they got it, call them later to follow up. But have your phone PIN. Please see number 3.

8) Ask your broker for a trusted EVERYTHING and join Angie's List. I'm not established in Denver. I know about five people here. I didn't know where to begin to find a good painter or fence company or anything. My broker hooked me up with our painters, who gave me a good deal because of the referral. Angie's List has a small annual fee, but you can get reviews on companies, which is how I found my fence guys.

9) If possible, stay with family or use cash for temporary quarters if you are coming home before closing. Don't charge a month of a corporate stay on your card even if you will pay it off every month, as your lender will check your credit several times once you are in escrow. I had to rent a car, get a cellphone (requiring a credit check), etc., but I stayed with family so at least I didn't have that expense. Credit checks and a change in your debt-to-limit ratio could scare your lender.

10) Lastly, in the hullaballoo of an overseas move, it is always helpful to have family swoop in and lend much-needed hands. I found this to be extra true when buying a house instead of renting. Because we came back to the country so soon before closing, I had to do everything at once. My mom, aunt and cousins have helped me pick up furniture, build furniture, accept shipments, unpack, distract kids, find a blinds company, go to Home Depot (really, I'm there almost every day), etc. I have vendors coming in and out several times a day, and having another adult or four around has been very helpful. Our window coverings salesperson (that is a thing!) was amused to walk into a house with four children and five adults and three animals, but that's how we got things done. I told my young and strong cousin and her fiancé that their wedding present would double in niceness for every piece of furniture they assemble. I'm not sure I was kidding. It takes a village.




Sunday, March 3, 2013

Being Half of Something

Praise Jeebus, I have internet. My eyes and fingertips were near death following a few weeks of ferocious iPhone-ing. As of today I had used 90% of my monthly data allowance (with two weeks to go), mostly Facetiming Husband, who is in Fakistan, aka Indianastan, aka Fake Afghanistan. Hashtag FirstWorldProblems HashtagOhMyGodThisIsntTwitterStopHashtagging.

We bought a house. I signed a lot of documents, twice. They didn't like my finely-honed squiggle of a signature, so I had to write out my full name, and Husband's Full Name by My Full Name as Attorney-in-Fact, about a million times. Still easier than getting my TSP password. HashtagFedProblems HashtagStopIt.

Observations about Denver: WHERE HAVE ALL THE CYNICS GONE. East Coasters please come visit. Also: seriously, they talk about the powder on the radio. The local weather has a segment just for skiing conditions. I'm fairly certain a genuine Mountain Man was driving the luggage truck when we arrived at the airport. Pony sightings: zero, but I still have high hopes. Unlike Mumbai, there are no cattle in the street, but there are cattle in every other advertisement. These people love their beer.

Observations about being a homeowner: Window coverings are hugely expensive and you'll have never seen the price tag coming. Your happiest day will not be closing, but the day internet is installed. Buying a loft bed for your son to preserve usable space in his small room is smart. Adding a slide (yes, really) to it negates the space savings. Don't worry, he can slide into the closet (yes, really). Even if you are just putting up a swatch of paint to test the color, put tape on your moulding.

Observations about the SAHM transition: I almost can't think about my career right now. It's like a break up with someone you love intensely, but you know you can't make it work. Put the blinders on and move forward, lest you become overwhelmed with self-doubt. I'll tackle the Having It All and Doing It All and Being It All or Being Half of Something another day.

Observations about The Children: They both speak with Estonglish grammar, meaning slightly Yoda-like. I thought Girl couldn't count, but turns out she just can't count in English (well, she can, but she starts with five and can only get to eight). She'll easily do an üks, kaks, kolm, neli, viis, kuus, seitse, kümme. Yes, Estonian speakers, she does all that in a perfect Estonian accent, but she still skips eight and nine because they make no freaking sense. Even Girl knows this.

Observations about the Menagerie: Out of the clink and pretty well adjusted. The cats are troopers and expert travelers, and the dog is just too dog-like to get overworked about being in a new place.

As I tackle the main project here, which is Boy, I'll share some of the highs and lows and what works and what doesn't, but I'm trying to do so in a way that protects his privacy. I hope against hope that someday the outbursts and pugilism and mood swings will be unrecognizable behaviors, but I don't want him to stumble across this a few years down the road and think for half a second that I only focused on what's wrong. There's a lot right with him, and I will share that too. That is a narrow and difficult line to walk, but with time I will figure it out.

Onward.