I thought I would be an expert at this by now.

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I had it in my mind that if I did something for 800 hours I’d be an expert at it. Turns out I was wrong. It’s 10,000 hours.

I guess it makes perfect sense that I am a tired, bored, frustrated dog walker because I’ve only been doing it for about 800 hours. EIGHT HUNDRED HOURS!! I’ve probably done more because I’m not doing the math. I roughly figure that I take two 45-minute walks a day and we got the dogs last April. That adds up to something near 800, give or take. See how I did Core Curriculum math there? Estimating!

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I LOVE my dogs. But man are they a pain to walk sometimes. They pull me down the street. They see a squirrel and lose their minds and pull me through mud puddles. Cody is strong so you can imagine how that goes. I’ve actually cried real tears on dog walks before because things just went to hell.

They are not always bad. They are getting better and better at minding me and listening to me when I call them but they still have their moments where they try my patience regularly and I feel like I am the worst dog-owner ever.

Yes, we’ve taken them to training and Payam is pretty good at making them mind him but I’m not an alpha by nature and I think the dogs know it. They think Mom is great for a really good time and they like to show me a really good time no matter what brush, bramble or mud puddle it might take me through. Of course, I have been known to take them to the nature park and let them off leash to chase a bunny or a squirrel so it’s really my own fault that they don’t walk beside me calmly. I know this. And they are puppies. So really everything is progressing the way it’s supposed to.

Dog walking can be a chore. It is a chore!  It’s not just a walk in the park on a sunny day. It’s a walk through and around the park on hot days and cold days and rainy days and days when you have so much work to do you can’t believe you are spending 30 minutes untangling yourself from leashes when you really need to get back to your desk already and make that deadline!

Dogs are like having babies all over again.

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When I started my whole dog-walking experience by walking Payam’s dog, Ty, (who passed last year) I thought, This will be great exercise! I’ll do it everyday. How great! It was great for about a month. Then it got really really boring. You can only watch a dog sniff so many sign posts and pee on so many trees before your mind starts to wander and you pull out your phone.

Then when we got the puppies we practically dragged them down the street because they didn’t know how to take walks yet and it was SO FUN! They were so cute!!! That lasted about three months. The novelty wore off.

Now, nearly a year later, it is the bane of my existence. Now I pull out my phone whenever I can and just when I’m sending an important text or titling a really good instagram shot, Cody pulls me sideways and I drop my phone and then Whiskey runs around me, tying me up with his leash and licks me in the face and everyone else out walking their dogs stare at me like, “What are you doing using your phone and not paying attention to your dogs!!”

So I put my phone away and compose blog post after blog post in my head that never get written. I spend a lot of time thinking and not doing anything because of those blasted dogs.

Obviously, I started to resent the dog walks. Especially because I always end up greeting other dog-walkers and it’s always this crazy confusion of my dogs jumping all over their dogs and me using all my strength to hold them back. I feel bad because everyone just wants to say hi and I’m terrible at controlling my dogs. It just felt like a daily exercise in failure.

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I’m learning. Failure after failure and eventually I learn. I am only 800 hours in after all, just a mere baby dog-walking expert.

So what have I learned?  I’ve learned that I can look for the good in these walks. There is so much good. I’ve learned to watch the skies and take my walks when the sun starts to set because it’s about a thousand times more fun to walk and enjoy nature during the golden hours.

I’ve started taking the nature trail near our house that isn’t as busy with other dog-walkers. Of course this trail holds other challenges like that one time the fire engine sirens set off all the coyotes in the park howling and scared the crap out of me. There were literally ten coyotes surrounding us on all sides and I had no idea they were there before the sirens went off because they were hidden in the brush. It was so terrifying I had to split and hide out in a nearby apartment complex and call and ask Payam to come get us. I took several months off from walking in the nature trail after that happened but I’m back to it because the beauty pulls me. Also, Cody is so big these days. I’m pretty sure a full pack of coyotes wouldn’t mess with us. But believe me, I do not let them off leash if we are deep in the nature trail or it is anywhere near twilight.

I’ve also started using headphones. Not when I’m in the nature park of course, because obviously I need to be fully aware of my surroundings but when we are on our lake walks where all the other dog walkers are. It’s amazing how much more patient I am with the pulling and the sniffing and the taking forever to take a crap when I’m listening to classical or piano music. I am truly amazed at how much music can alter my mood. Headphones also kinda keep the other dog walkers from engaging me, which is great. Headphones rule.

There are also the rituals the dogs and I have created. They always sit with me on the benches near the lake. They jump up on the bench before I even get a chance as if to remind me, “Here is where you have to sit and take a moment, Mom.” They let me pet them while I sit and stare at the lake. I am actually very grateful that I have the luxury to take dog walks. They force me to slow down. They force me to sit and think about what I’m thankful for instead of getting mad that I’m not heading home already.

We live in a moderate climate (outside of this crazy rainy year) and I have two pretty places to walk to, that’s a lot! I do wish I could take them to the countryside and let them run to their heart’s content. I do wish the dog park would dry up and stop being a mud festival. But for what it’s worth, I have a lot. And maybe if I remember my headphones or remember to walk when it’s a pretty time of day, I’ll get through the rest of my nine-thousand hours and finally be a calm, peaceful dog-walking expert!

Bug’s Amazing Galaxy Birthday Party!

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We did it again! We threw a crazy over-the-top birthday party for Bug and I pretty much went insane during it, vowed I’d never do it again and then ended up feeling all soft-and-fuzzy afterwards with plans to totally do it all over again. This is the definition of insanity, right? Crazy party-planner mom strikes again!

But seriously, it worked. It was my first twilight birthday party and we really pulled it off. Everything was so pretty and glowing! Of course photographing a nighttime party is a whole other story but I did my best. Just imagine all these pictures ten times prettier and about 100% less blurry. Though sometimes blur is a good thing.

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First up I have to show you these really cool nebula amulets we made. These almost didn’t happen.

I had been asking Bug all week what kind of galaxy craft she’d like to have at her party because parties always have to have some kind of activity, and we’re kinda famous for our crafts. Of course Bug answered me the way she usually answers me by not answering me at all. She evaded me and finally when pressed to the extreme, told me that she wanted all eleven of her guests to hang out in her super-crowded ten-by-thirteen foot bedroom. They were going to play “Pusheen School” which is a game they play everyday at school where they take their Pusheen stuffed animals and act out characters going to school. They’ve been doing it for about a year and a half now. All the girls have different Pusheen characters with distinct accents, personalities and nick names. It’s a thing.

I tucked away my disappointment and planned a party without a craft. I figured it was probably better anyway because I always go over the top and regret it later.

Fast forward to the day before the party when Bethany showed up (Yes, she totally flew in just for this party to help me with the cake and to visit her other eleventy California friends) and guess what she asked as soon as she walked in the door? “So what craft are we doing for this party?”

(!!!!!)

If Bethany is asking what craft I’m doing and I don’t have an answer for her then maybe I should override the no-fun birthday girl and plan an eleventh hour craft!! Because nothing gets my motor running like a last minute craft idea and someone who will appreciate it. Bring it on!

Bug was not amused. In fact, she was pretty much a sullen teenager the entire day of her birthday. Another trip to Michaels was barely tolerated so we could get little amulet bottles and squeeze bottles for colored water. Then when her friends showed up and I showed them how to stuff cotton into the bottles to create the little nebulas she spent most of the time in a huff in her room. I’m such a horrible mom.

However, her friends loved the craft! The little bottles turned out awesome! And eventually Miss SullenPants came back to the party and made one herself and admitted that it wasn’t totally lame after all.

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Next up is the cake. THE CAKE. This cake was such a pain in the butt I had to have Bethany fly in to help me make it. We made this cake. It looks amazing but involves corn syrup and gelatin and a ton of food coloring. All naturalist homeopathic types avert your eyes.

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It was an amazing process. Lots of goopy blue and purple dripping glaze all over a purple velvet (chocolate) cake, per Bug’s request. It’s too bad all the glory of this cake didn’t really get captured in the dark of the party but it was a blast to watch Bethany make it. If you follow my instagram feed you probably saw the raw, very-unedited footage (sorry for the nice close-up of our trashcan) of it.

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Everything turned out really pretty and very, very sickeningly sweet. The hot chocolate was a super hit as were the marshmallows and the three sources of heat: our good old fashioned Weber barbecue, the cool chiminea thing we found discarded in someone’s driveway a long time ago and the outdoor heater I rented.

Can I just say how cool it is that Payam enables me and tells me to go ahead and rent tables and chairs and a heater for a party that I have no idea what the weather will be like for? The weather has been raining for about four weeks straight and I’d been watching the weather forecast like a hawk on crack. Everyday, I would announce the likelihood of rain on Bug’s party to everyone around me like it was my own stock market ticker. Predictions went from 100% precipitation to 25% precipitation to finally settling on 45% precipitation and AMAZINGLY it did NOT rain during Bug’s party. It was cold but our heat sources worked out perfectly and the fact that I warned everyone to dress for weather in the invitation helped. Who has a birthday party outdoors in January?! Crazy Californians, that’s who.

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It all worked out. Everything glowed magically. I stretched battery operated bulb lights along the middle of the table, scattereds some glow-in-the-dark plastic stars on our galaxy printed tapestry and then set a vase full of glow-stick necklaces in the middle.

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Bug actually did have a really good time at her party. It was hard getting there though. She fell on her wrist while rollerblading earlier in the day and was in some pain which didn’t help her mood when her mom stole her friends to do a stupid craft. Thankfully, her bad mood wasn’t anything some secretly applied cat-eye make up in the bathroom couldn’t bribe out of her.  She’s getting to the age where we have started bonding over our mutual anxiety-related quirks. She understands my freak-outs over guests arriving and the house not being tidy and I understand her fear of crying in front of her friends. It wasn’t an easy thing for her but she muscled through it

And as she was cheers-ing crazily, with toasts to Toaster (her Pusheen stuffed animal) in grown-up glasses of sparkling apple cider leftover from our New Year’s shindig, she caught my eye and gave me a smile that said it all. She really did appreciate this party even though it was a pain in the butt to make happen. So yeah. I’ll probably keep on keeping on until I’m too old to keep on.

Or maybe next year we’ll just take a road trip!