Saturday, July 31, 2010

Puppy Learns a New Trick from an Old Dog

Our black lab turned 15 this past May. Despite health problems, she still enjoys her beach walks, as often as we can get her up to the ocean.

She was a great swimmer in her day, able to tow my husband across the lake. At 15, she doesn't swim much. But she enjoys lying in the water when the waves are gentle, letting them roll across her back. It's a trick she learned from our first dog, her mentor when she was a puppy, who passed away a few years ago. Our first dog never liked swimming. But she loved to sit in the water, letting the waves caress her.

This summer, Puppy has been learning to swim from our younger dog. She eagerly follows her into the waves and romps with her in the surf. Just recently, she's been observing the Old Dog with interest.

During the latest heat wave, Puppy decided to try out the Old Dog's cooling off technique.
Puppy liked it a lot. Today, she went right in and lay down. Didn't even try to swim. Just wanted to be cool. Like the Old Dog.
You may not be able to teach an old dog a new trick, but an old dog can surely teach her tricks to the new generation. And sometimes the young'uns even learn a thing or two.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Puppy Finds a New Ball to Play With

My daughter's hamster has lived with us longer than Puppy has. Puppy has been fascinated by the little rodent, named Nibbles, for a while now. She watches Nibbles through the glass walls of the cage as he runs on his wheel or eats his seeds.

But somehow Puppy has never seen Nibbles play in his rolling ball.

Puppy thought is was a new toy, just for her. Nibbles wasn't sure what to think.
He wasn't afraid of the dogs, and actually rolled right up to them to sniff at their paws through the holes in his ball. He seemed fearless, and reminded me of the hamster from the movie BOLT. But he tired of the game before the dogs did, and tried to escape from them. It was funny to watch him run the ball down the hallway, and go in and out of rooms like it was a big game of hide and seek.
The Puppy always found Nibbles. The Big Dog was right behind her, making sure that she played nicely, which was a shock to me, as the Big Dog has attempted to nibble on Nibbles more than once.

In the end, they parted friends. Puppy spent the next hour or so sitting in my daughter's room, staring through the glass wall of the cage as if to ask Nibbles if he could come back out and play some more.

Nibbles took a nap instead.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pupy Finds a New Favorite Treat

Tasty Treats. Messier than your average bone.
Who knew such pleasure could be so simple?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

NonCompliant Plays Kids Day

For those who don't know, my 12-year-old is in a Rock Band. Their name is NonCompliant, and he's the oldest kid in the band. My son's been taking guitar lessons at Mode4Music since he turned 8, and the band first formed when he was 9.

For the last three summers, NonCompliant has been playing one of the band sets at Barnstable Kids Day, a free day of fun sponsored by the Barnstable Police and Fire Departments and held at Barnstable High School. This year, they were the only band to play, and performed both sets themselves.
It was a steamy, muggy hot Saturday. The studio director and roadie dads were there at 7 a.m. to haul the equipment. The band members started arriving at 9 a.m. for the sound check. The gates opened at quarter after 10, following the parade of fire and rescue vehicles onto the field. The sun blazed through the fog just as people started streaming through the gates.

By 11 a.m. when the band was introduced by Suzanne from Dunes 102 radio, it was sunny and sweltering on the field. It was hot.

My son's solo (in IronMan) didn't go well. He pulled through it, and finished the rest of the set, but didn't smile again. Luckily, they had an hour between sets to cool down, have some of the free ice cream, watch the K-9 unit demonstrations and try to dunk the police officer in the dunk tank.

Despite the heat, the second set rocked. Everyone on the field was bouncing along to the Blitzkreig Bop, and my son nailed his solo on Smoke on the Water. The 6 band members and their teacher, Tony, were all smiles when they got off stage to sign autographs.
And then the real fun of the day. The biggest draw at Kids Day is not the band, or the Jaws of Life, or the cute puppy members of the K-9 unit. It's the Foam Blower. The firemen hook up the hoses and blow gallons of foam using the airport blower unit for the kids to romp in.

And then to clean off the foam, a giant fire hose is attached to one of the ladder trucks to create a gigantic shower for all to wash off under.
It was a great way to end a hot and sweaty day. A great time was had by all, band members and new fans alike.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Puppy goes to Sailing School

This year at sailing school, there are weekly "themes" for the kids, to help build a sense of fun and camaraderie both on and off the shore. Friday was "Hawaiian Day," and the instructors urged the kids to dress up with flowery shirts and colorful leis.

My middle son refused to dress up.

Instead, we dressed up Puppy and took her along.

Middle son was thrilled. And so was Puppy.
The club where the kids take lessons is in a beautiful spot, on a quiet offshoot of the Bass River. On Friday morning, the weather was beautiful, the skies blue, the slight breeze barely able to ruffle the glass of the water...

Maybe not ideal for sailing races, but it meant the morning would be slow and Puppy wouldn't be in the way. Much.

Puppy was interested in everything, stopping to say hello to all the other sailing kids, the instructors, the moms, the little brothers and sisters in strollers... she wanted to check out everyone and everything.

She sniffed the boats. The docks. The sailing shed, where they store the sails and rudders. The gravel path around the perimeter, as well as the wrap-around deck where parents sit to watch the sailors in the morning and the sunset at night.
Finally exhausted, Puppy plopped down on the lawn next to the docks and refused to budge. She was happy to watch the to and fro of the sailors rigging their boats and rolling them down the ramp into the water. She tried to sneak down the ramp to join them at one point, but the Hawaiian shirt was a little constricting so I thought it best if she remain dry.

Puppy had a great morning, but didn't actually get a chance to sail. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Puppy Gets a Pool

Even though we live near the beach, we have a swimming pool. My husband insisted. The kids love it. It makes it easy to cool off when the temperatures soar, as they have the past few weeks here in the Northeast.

The only problem with the pool is that it has a vinyl liner. Not that the liner itself is a problem anymore (we had it replaced in the spring) but it means the Dogs - all Dogs - are absolutely not allowed in the pool to swim. Dog Claws + Pool Liner = Disaster.

So we got a plastic kiddie pool for the Puppy and her cohorts.
She wasn't sure what to make of it at first. It probably didn't help that I used it to give her a bath earlier in the summer. She figured Pool=Bath=Torture... But on a day when the temperatures are in the 90s and the humidity has you dripping with sweat before you get three steps from the door?

Heaven. She figured that out pretty quickly as well.
Kiddie Pool + Cold Water from the Hose + Shade = One Happy Puppy.

Hope you've found a good way to Cool Off in this heat too. Happy Summer!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Reading

It's another long, hot summer weekend. What are you reading on the beach this week, or out by the swimming pool?

I'm still going through my daughter's books, catching up on what's new in Middle Grade literature. Booklist gave SCHOOLED a starred review back in 2008 when it was first released. Which is a Good Thing, for those of you who don't follow Booklist reviews.

The story is set in Middle School in California, and focuses on the 8th grade (poignant for me, as my oldest just graduated from 8th grade. Good for my daughter as she's starting Middle School in September.)

The basic premise follows a student who's been home schooled on a commune all his life. The commune has dwindled in size so that it's just the boy and his grandmother left living there (his parents were killed long ago in a tragic Peace Corp accident.) When the grandmother breaks a hip (falling out a tree in the first chapter) the boy must go into foster care and attend public school while she heals.

What a great premise.

Ripe with possibilities and endless opportunities for conflict. Adding to the uniqueness of the storyline, each chapter is narrated by a different character. There are at least six narrators, some with more chapters than others, but all telling their portion of the story from their own point of view very convincingly.

Does it portray real life in 8th grade in California? Probably not. There's no sex or drugs, no poverty or racial discrimination, no really bad language... nothing truly objectionable going on or talked about by characters.

Am I comfortable with my going-into-middle-school daughter reading it? Oh yes, more comfortable than I am with her being on the bus with actual 8th graders in the morning on the way to school. The story focuses more on the politics of middle school conformity, and why fitting in and being the same isn't the only way to succeed in middle school. What Andrew Clements did for elementary school with books like FRINDLE and JANITORS BOY, I think this book tries to do for middle school. And does well.

Just don't expect a real life 8th grader to read it without laughing and saying, "Oh yeah, right."

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Writing Romance


Everyone wants a little romance in their lives. First kiss. True love. Summer fling. Puppy love. Holding hands on the beach. Hot sex. Steamy affair. Wedding bells. Happily Ever After.

A lot or a little, we all like to have it, right? So why is it that when I tell people I write romance novels (or romantic suspense) I get THAT LOOK. You know, the one that's saying "Oh, that kind of writing. Not real writing."

It's still real writing. My butt is still in the chair, hands on keyboard. I still have to do research and check facts, not all of it under the sheets (although, obviously, there is that as well!)

In my first novel, I had tons of medical questions to look up and find answers to, as well as information about illegal drugs and hospital procedures... I spent hours on the Internet following clues and gathering information. I sent emails to friends who are doctors and had them read through whole sections to make sure I was making sense. I'm not a doctor, but I know a few who helped me get it all right.

I know there are authors who write historical romances, and engage in intense research, worrying about whether certain words are even appropriate or authentic to their eras. I know there are authors who write intense romantic suspense, and spend hours pouring over police procedures and criminal profiles to try and make the grit as authentic as possible. Which makes it more enjoyable when the female detective and the hot fireman do finally fall into bed. Believe me.

Romance is also an ever-growing category for book sales, despite the current economic downturn. Which means more and more people are reading romance novels, whether they want to admit it in public or not. Sales figures don't lie.

People need the escape that romance provides. It does seem that there are a lot more "dark" romances than there used to be, but most still provide the catharsis of the Happily Ever After that people are also searching for in their real lives.

So why the smirks? Why the lack of respect for the authors struggling to make it in the genre?

Are you a romance reader or writer? What do you think about romance, specifically or generally? Like it, hate it, secretly read it at the beach? Can you explain the "attitude" some people have about the genre?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Puppy Goes to her First Parade

It was too sunny and hot to take the Puppy to the "official" Independence Day parade, but we thought the neighborhood parade would be just her speed.

The neighborhood parade is mostly kids on bikes and people dressed in costumes, to-go cups in hand, all marching to their own beats while a boom box on a pickup truck at the front of the line blasts patriotic tunes...

There are even some Other Dogs who dressed up and marched in the parade:
And some more Other Dogs To Meet who turned out among the spectators lining the yards and driveways:

Finally, the Puppy had had enough of the Parade Thing. "Dinner," she told Dad. "I'm hu-u-u-ngry," she said, in no uncertain terms. She had no desire to run after the marchers, join the parade, or anything like that. She wanted to go home and eat.

So while she enjoyed her first Parade experience, Dinner is still number one on her priority list.

Hope everyone had a Happy Fourth of July!