The Christmas Spectacular

I hate to brag, but I gotta say, my family does Christmas right.  If you haven’t picked up on it already, my entire extended family (and close friends we’ve picked up along the way) all enjoy a bit of theatrics during family gatherings, and Christmas Day is the grand daddy of them all.
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Kicking Off The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

How it is mid-December already, I will never know. This year, in the new house, Mr. S and I kicked off the holiday season with a rite of passage: hosting Thanksgiving.

Because of our sheer number, hosting a family event is no easy feat and every year there seems to be a hot potato situation of who the major holidays will fall to. (Major holidays include but are not limited to Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and Manny Pacquiao fights.) Before we even moved into our new home, my mother nominated Mr. S and I to host Thanksgiving 2015, and the rest of my aunts and uncles unsurprisingly ran with it.

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To the Person Who Broke Into Our Home

Ten days ago you broke into our home and since then, I’ve often wondered what I would say if I ever came face to face with you. Even if the opportunity came one day, I’m sure I wouldn’t have the presence of mind to form the right words with the right tone to properly convey exactly how you’ve changed everything.

I am past the anger. Actually, I don’t even know that I was ever angry to begin with. Stupid is what I initially felt. Stupid that we didn’t have an alarm system. Stupid that we didn’t leave a light on in the house. Stupid that we have a big, intimidating pit bull, but he wasn’t home to deter you. I take back that last one because while I’m almost positive Chunk would’ve scared you away, who knows what your state of mind was at the time, how desperate you were, what weapons you might have had with you.

Detectives came to our house. They took pictures of the window on the back door you broke to let yourself in, fingerprinted every surface you might have touched while in our house, and itemized our stolen possessions – the Xbox, the PlayStation, the MacBook, the power cords, the controllers, the video games, and the black backpack you carried it all away in. The police said with the holidays approaching and the early darkness of daylight savings, ’tis the season for theft. Maybe if it was a random violation of our private property by some passerby – a statistic – perhaps I wouldn’t still be so bothered by this whole thing. But it wasn’t a faceless stranger. It was you.

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Home Renovations: Plumbing Perils

Up until this point, the home renovations I’ve shared on this blog have been overall successes and relatively pain free – leveling the floors, gutting and upgrading the kitchen, painting every vertical surface of our house, etc. Sure there was a lot of time, money, and effort put into those fixes, but they were on our agenda and had been budgeted for accordingly. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t share the trauma of our plumbing catastrophe, lest you think our home renovation process has been all sunshine and rainbows. And to tell that story, we have to go back in time to the couple of months leading up to our official move.

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A Day in the Life: Chunk Edition

Chunk here, back by popular demand.  The girl said there were lots of requests for my take on the day in the life post, so here it is – my full report on the riveting events of my Saturday.  Can’t keep my fans waiting!

8:00 AM  Someone keeps lifting up the covers and saying “I see you…” It’s the girl – she always wakes up too early on the weekend. Girl, I bury myself at the foot of the bed for a reason and it’s not because I know you love the view of my butthole.

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8:04 AM  Ugh, now she’s telling me to “Come here.” Seriously? We are sharing a bed – I cannot be any more “here” than I already am. Fine, fine, I army crawl my way up to where the pillows are to appease her. She hugs me too tight. I look to the boy for help but he just squeezes me from the other side. I make the wheezing noise so they back off.

8:09 AM  The girl is playing with my lips. Serenity now.

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A Day in the Life

Inspired by Stephanie’s Day in the Life post over at Drama Happens, I chronicled the events of my Wednesday, September 9th – a work day like any other for me.  Hold on to your hats, folks, this is sure to be exciting stuff.

6:30 AM  The alarm rings.  I hit snooze and yank the covers out from under Chunk who has stolen them all in the middle of the night.

6:39 AM  The alarm rings again, but I just got these covers back and I’m not ready to give them up yet. Snooze again.

6:48 AM  The second snooze expires.  I get up and head to the bathroom. Chunk rolls over to occupy my empty spot on the bed.  I tell him he’s a lucky bastard.

I’m so jealous

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Living in the Suburbs: The First 100 Days

As of today (because who knows when I’ll actually finish and publish this post), we have been living in the suburbs for 100 days. Here are some of my observations thus far:

  • Wow, there are a lot of teenagers here. They are literally everywhere – at the mall, the gym, the pizza place, the nail salon, in the middle of the street riding bikes or playing basketball, panhandling/fundraising for their football team on the side of the road or offering to wash your car for $5 to “Help the Marching Band.” They seem to be the most active demographic in this town and yet, I don’t recall seeing so many (if any) teenagers in NYC. Where were they all hiding? And good lord, what are these children wearing? Mr. S practically had to shield his eyes from embarrassment at the sight of all the butt cheeks hanging out of high waisted short shorts paired with crop tops parading through the mall. I’m no prude, but there is definitely a time and a place for outfits like that and the mall food court is not it.

Classy, not trashy. (Source: Glamour Magazine UK)

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The Truth About Chunk, Part 3

See here for Part 1 and here for Part 2 of Chunk’s story.

After the chance meeting on our block while walking Chunk, we met with Miguel and debriefed him on Chunk’s leash aggression. We mentioned the training experience we had with Kate and how it seemed to be largely ineffective. Miguel nodded while we spoke and I got the sense he was all too familiar with cases like ours, already knowing our story before we could get the words out. In contrast to Kate’s exclusive use of positive reinforcement, Miguel’s philosophy on dog training included both positive and negative reinforcement. Communicating positive feedback was still with the use of treats, but negative feedback required the use of a remote collar – more commonly referred to as a shock collar.

So I might get some flack for this on the internet, but I wasn’t against Miguel’s use of the remote collar and it mostly had to do with his professionalism and obvious love for dogs (pit bulls and rescues in particular). He explained to us that positive-only or negative-only training is an incomplete training method. A dog won’t learn desirable behavior if he isn’t rewarded, nor will he learn undesirable behavior if he isn’t reprimanded – and learning the difference between the two allows the dog to make a *choice*, not just react to external forces. Miguel termed this a more “complete” method of training and added that some dogs, for whatever reason (maybe past trauma or abuse), won’t respond to positive-only training. That doesn’t mean that these are bad dogs past the point of help or are undeserving of a second chance or are destined to live forever with fear and anxiety – it just means we need to figure out what works for them. He told us a story of how he had visited a shelter asking for the opportunity to rehab and train their most aggressive dogs, but was turned away when they found out he utilized a remote collar. The dogs were eventually put down. It struck a chord with me – that very well could have been Chunk’s fate.

On top of that logic, we had Bear’s success story as a glowing testimonial to Miguel’s training. From what he told us (and Bear’s owner corroborated), Bear was an even more extreme case of aggression than what he had seen of Chunk. I would have never guessed because every time I had seen Bear out and about in the neighborhood, he was basically a poster child for a well-behaved Rottweiler – adorable broad smile and prancing along like a show dog. Of the numerous times we had run in with him, I’d never seen him react to Chunk – not even a flinch, not even when Chunk was lunging and barking with bared teeth at him. Miguel told us that Bear still wears his remote collar on walks, but it had been many months since Miguel had to correct him with a stimulation.

Whatever hesitation we had with using the remote collar was far outweighed by the possibility of curing Chunk of his leash aggression and enabling him to socialize with other dogs, rather than “manage” the problem by avoidance and perpetuate his stress during our walks.

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The Truth About Chunk, Part 2

Click here for Part 1 of Chunk’s story. Now on to Part 2…

When you own a dog in the suburbs (as both Mr. S and I did growing up in NJ), the chore of walking the dog is a sporadic, when-you-have-the-time, optional event. The bathroom is a private fenced in yard, just on the other side of the back door – no human participation required. When you own a dog in the city, walking the dog is a necessity (unless you do that wee-wee pad thing, in which case, gross). The bathroom is every single tree and garbage bag, and the journey goes on and on until the highly anticipated #2 comes out. You find yourself trudging through rain, sleet, and snow saying, “YOU BETTER POOP ON THIS TREE BECAUSE I AM NOT CROSSING FIRST AVENUE.”

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Chunk wearing the Halti

I tell you all this because had we adopted Chunk into a sprawling suburban home with a six-foot privacy fenced-in backyard, maybe his leash aggression wouldn’t have been that big of a deal and maybe we wouldn’t have sought out training to correct it. But since we adopted him into our NYC studio, he was on a leash at least two or three times a day, crossing paths with many other Upper East Side dogs on the narrow sidewalks, and having varying degrees of meltdowns along the way.

Walking makes us tired.

Walking makes us tired.

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The Truth About Chunk, Part 1

Based on my Instagram feed, it’s very obvious that I am OBSESSED with our pit bull, Chunk. We’re going on two years now with this velvety loaf of wrinkly fur and though I can’t imagine life any other way, to say it was all sunshine and rainbows from the get go would be a half-truth. Yes, there was an instant connection when we first met him, but bringing Chunk home was a wake up call in what it meant to be a rescue adopter, a pit bull advocate, and just generally a responsible pet owner in the city. But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Chunk has quite the story prior to his adoption that I haven’t shared in detail here before and I want to start at the very beginning. (Usually I let beg Chunk to write his own posts, but I figured this is a touchy subject for him, so I told him I’d take this one. He said, “Fine, whatever.”)

“You blog, I’ll keep the bed warm.”

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