Category Archives: Parenting

My New Child

Mother and Dog Selfie

Mother and Dog Selfie

At 54, I’m a mother again. Yes, you heard that right.

We got a puppy about four months ago and I’m his mom. It didn’t start out that way. My daughter, Meg, was supposed to be his “mom,” but teenagers don’t make great moms. They’re too busy, self-absorbed and underfinanced.

So I had to take over.

This was definitely an unplanned puppy. But I have embraced him like I would my own child. Meg named him, a privilege she earned by being the puppy’s first mother. She calls him Willie.

Anyone who knows me knows I have avoided animals in my adult life. Those who have known me longer realize that I once loved dogs and in fact, was part of a family that owned two dogs.

After I got over the “yuck” factor with our new puppy, and there is a major “yuck” factor with dogs that I don’t need to detail, I recovered my repressed love for dogs.

Just in time, by the way.

I’ve been kind of fumbling along these last couple of years. Our two oldest, Jill and Bobby, are full-fledged grown-ups. My dear son Kerry went away to college and started his adult life while little Meg began high school and is preoccupied. In other words, my kids don’t need me as much.

My husband, FX, and I started a business, which has consumed a lot of our time. But I have a tendency to become too consumed and that drives my loved ones crazy.

Enter Willie. He doesn’t give a hoot about our business. He just wants to play, run with his dog gang, eat regular meals and be loved. Which is just like a child.

I loved raising my children. They’re so much fun and continue to be the joy of our lives. You live in the moment.  You meet their parents and make new friends. You laugh a lot.  Sure, challenges and worries abound. But for the most part, it is incredibly rewarding.

And so is Willie. We found him outside Pet Express in Stonestown on one of those “adoption” days. We welcomed him into our home knowing little about puppy care. Willie came to us with kennel cough and ring worm. We had to isolate him and keep him away from other dogs for a month. Torture for everyone.

Willie required so much time and energy just as the “FX Crowley Company” was starting to take off. There were a few weeks when clients were ignored, cupboards remained bare and the family struggled to get along with each other. Stress does that and a new puppy, like a new baby, demands a major adjustment to your lifestyle.

I read some books about dogs and we immersed ourselves into dog care and training. Things had started to pick up when we received an anonymous note from a neighbor complaining about Willie’s barking. And just like an insecure new mother, I cried and felt inadequate.

Then we got Willie neutered and he quieted down. We found Sigmund Stern Grove, five blocks away, which I only knew as a teenage hangout and venue for free and foggy summertime concerts. Who knew it was a dog park?

But we go there every day with Willie now and make new friends, reacquaint with old ones and watch Willie play like we used to watch our kids play at the park. My family has accused me of siphoning money from Meg’s college fund into dog toys and bully sticks. I hired a trainer who told me I hug Willie too much and need to make him earn his treats. I sing “Me and You and A Dog Named Boo” by Lobo on all our dog walks.

Old habits die hard.

I love being a mom again.


Application Season

‘Tis the season for applications at the Crowley home.  My daughter is applying to high school and my son is applying to college.  I am cooking a lot of food.  When my kids hunker down to do extended schoolwork or in this case, extended applications, I function like a combination cheerleader and short-order cook.  I check on my kids occasionally, talk them off the ledge if they are despairing, and provide liberal servings of turkey and grilled cheese sandwiches and steak fajitas.  This gives my son and daughter the strength to complete their tasks and I feel immense satisfaction that I am contributing on some level to their success.

Mention the word “application” and parents of teens shudder.  In my day, I applied to two colleges.  I was going to apply to a third, but the essay seemed like too much trouble and I felt confident that I would be accepted to one of my first two choices.  Times have changed.  My son will probably apply to nine colleges, which is considered on the low side.  The common application AKA “the common app” is supposed to alleviate some of the tedious data entry, but only four of the colleges to which he is applying accept the common app.

Some of the application questions elude me.  For example, my daughter has been asked to identify her favorite quote.   If I were asked this question, I would be dumbstruck.  The ability to summon up a favorite quotation represents a major hole in my education.  I can tell you the lyrics of a number of Top 40 songs that ruled the charts between 1970 and 1981 especially any Carly Simon, James Taylor or Carole King hits.  I specialize in these three artists’ recordings.

But I was never asked to memorize a single literary quote in my long education.  Now it’s too late because my memory is shot.  Anything from my life that I remember took place between the ages of 10 and 21.  I don’t know what happened to my brain after that, but I never learned all the words to a favorite song again, let alone a poem or quote from literature.

Sometimes I feel intimidated when I read a book that uses a lot of quotes from other sources.  I wonder, “Do these authors annotate everything they read and if so, where do they find the time, or do they have amazing memories, or do they just Google a lot?”   Personally, I Google a lot.  I’m not proud of this, but let’s face it, everyone does it.  I couldn’t write my way out of a paper bag without Google and my virtual Thesaurus.

I do have a few sayings that I draw upon, and naturally they’re from my mother who could quote Shakespeare if prompted, even though her daughter can’t.   They’re more like Patsy proverbs because that was my mom’s name and her words communicated useful thoughts like a proverb does.   She often told me, “Simplicity is the key to style,” advice I have taken to the extreme at times.

My mom also told me “not to get attached to material things,” counsel that I did not appreciate when it was dispensed but has carried me through many a disappointment.

I think if admissions officers really want to understand the essence of a student, they should ask them to identify and interpret a memorable quote from a parent or caregiver.   The variety of responses would open up a Pandora’s Box of emotions.  One thing I know for sure, you can’t Google those memories.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from Carole King.  I could sing this song in my sleep and probably have, just in case you were wondering.

It’s My Party and I’ll Eat if I Want to…

Do your emotions determine your next snack or meal?  Mine often do.  When this subject came up with a nutritionist I consulted, I answered no.   I lead somewhat of a charmed life, being able to stay at home and take care of my kids.  What could be stressful about that?

Then I started to mindfully eat, which is code for paying attention when you stuff yourself.   This proved to be a real eye-opener.  Every time I felt anxious, I noticed that I ate a cookie or popped a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips into my mouth. 

I typically start my mornings calm and serene, like a yogi emerging from morning meditation.  At around 3 p.m., the kids come home from school and need my attention with the usual children requests:  a homework question, rides to practice, a snack or two.  I also start thinking about making dinner.  Hopefully, I’ve grocery shopped, but often I’m missing a critical ingredient so I will squeeze in a trip to the supermarket between the children’s demands.   Yogi transforms into a juggling act.

I consider spending this time with my family a privilege and a gift so I missed the signs that anything associated with this experience could make me edgy and trigger a desire for sugar.  I simply regarded my eating failures as a character flaw.

Once I acknowledged that I might be wrong, I returned to the experts for help.

The nutritionist advised me to substitute my bad habits with healthy snacks.  My execution of this practical solution has been less than consistent.    Apples and carrots do not provide the same level of comfort to me as does a warm, chewy chocolate chip cookie.   So I tried some low-calorie treats such as fudgesicles and learned that fudgesicles don’t really fill you up unless you eat the entire box.  So much for portion control.

Since I quit sugar for the month, I’m revisiting healthy snacks.  When 3 p.m. rolls around, I reach for the carrots and dip them generously into hummus sweetened with red bell pepper.   And if I feel agitated, I eat a lot of them.  Some things don’t change.

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