Tuesday, December 16, 2008

To Wii, or not to Wii

I don't play video games. Never have. When we were younger, my brother dominated the family's sole personal computer; my belief on it was that the computer will always be there… I don’t need to fight him for seat time at the computer. Because of this, I never developed the enthusiasm, coordination, or interest to play video games, either on the computer or on a game system. Over the years, for my own family, I postponed the introduction of gaming systems in my home as long as I possibly could. I preferred for my child(ren) to get outdoors, play with friends, or quietly read. The introduction of our first gaming system was against my wishes; it was not for my own blood children, but for the “step”-children. They played for hours, along with their father. They would take the system home with them and bring it back on their weekends with their dad. So my own son was only subjected to it on an every-other-weekend schedule.

One Christmas, several years ago, we were having a difficult time finding appropriate gifts for my son. I cannot remember how old he was, but I’m going to estimate that he was about 9. He knew that I didn’t fully approve of the game systems and would not purchase one for him. So, wouldn’t it be fantastic if “Santa” brought him one??? As expected, he was elated! Thus began the ever growing library of must-have games. And when the next, best game system came out, he wanted that one, too! Along with all the must-have games for that system! And even though I caved on letting him have the game systems, I would not concede on letting him have games that were rated above his age range. As long as he was in our home, there were to be no “M” rated games or “R” rated movies. He rejoiced the day he turned 17!

He came to a place in time where he already had a couple of game systems and the next best ones were about to hit the market. He had a difficult time deciding between the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. I told him he already had game systems and, basically, I was done. He was at an age where he was fully capable of earning and saving his own money to purchase what mom and dad would not. So I watched him; for over a year he saved birthday and Christmas gift money. He did chores around the house. He researched the two systems. He yo-yoed between wanting to get one system then deciding on the other. He watched sales flyers in the Sunday paper to see who had the best deal on the system he decided on. And finally, one day, he made his ultimate decision; asked us to drive him to Best Buy and he used his own money and gift cards to make his purchase. He is the proud owner of an Xbox 360.

Over the years, I’ve watched him play. More like watched him “teach” his dad how to play. He tends to leave out a lot of information when he “teaches.” I’m not sure if it’s because there is just so much to teach, or that he wants to (unfairly) beat the pants off his dad. I don’t know what intimidates me more about these game systems, watching my son clobber his component or looking over the game controllers with all their knobs, buttons and levers. “Green!” “a, A, AAAAYYY!!!!” “r1, r1, R1!!!” I just don’t think I’m up for the challenge, so I always decline whenever he asks if I want to learn.

Over Thanksgiving, we went to my brother’s home. He has the latest system, the Wii. Mom had asked me to bring board/card games to play as a family after dinner. But they were forgotten as the Wii controllers made their debut to the Thanksgiving family game time. “A little Cow Racing?” Huh? Hmmm. My mother was more courageous than me and opted to try. I was still stuck on, “I don’t play video games. I’m not coordinated enough. I don’t have any experience with them. I’m not playing.” Arms folded across my chest, me pouting. I watched my mom; she moved the controller this way and that. “Oh, it shakes!” she exclaimed as her cow crashes into something in the game. I watched my brother’s girlfriend bump her controller up in the air and her cow jumped. My own mother, playing Wii; I should have had my camera. The puppy wondering what was going on… my people are holding these things that look like my chewy bones, but they’re not playing with me. Everybody had a chance to race a cow. Including me. Hmmm. That was easy enough. I could probably play that again.

Next up, Wii Bowling. The first four to play were my brother, his girlfriend, Ian and my mom. Again! My mom! She had surgery on her wrist in October to correct her Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and I was worried that she might not be able to do the bowling. But she did. And she did well. And she looked like she was enjoying it. Who knew? I played in the next round. Strike! Spare! Spare! Oh, this is good. I typically am the one who has the lowest score when doing “real” bowling … as far as that’s concerned, “Gutter-Ball” is my middle name! I prefer bowling with little kids, where we put the bumpers up to make sure there are no gutter balls. But this Wii thing… well, I, uhhh… I kinda liked it. I kinda had fun. Yes, I still had the lowest score… that’s nothing new and it didn’t bother me. But I actually enjoyed it.

Now, I’m wondering… Do I dare ask for a Wii for Christmas? Do I break my own intolerance of game systems? Do I become a gamer? Can I do it? Am I ready?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Housebreaking the Puppy...

I’m so behind on my updates and while I’m typing this on Monday, 12/15, I know what I really want to post about cannot be posted until after Christmas… it includes some information about some gifts for my family. They may read this Blog more often than I know and I don’t want to give away any surprises. So, I’ll hold on to the rest of this post and explain everything later. Just know that I enjoyed creating the gifts and cannot wait to hear the reactions.

On the puppy-front, Miss Denali is being confined in the kitchen. She’s been naughty. At 7 ½ months, she is not yet housebroken. This is a fact that frustrates me and makes me feel like a failure as a dog-mom. She’s so smart! She’s so happy! You should see the grins and smiles she gives us! I’ve yet to capture a full smile on camera (I’m still trying; and also trying to teach her to smile on command, but that’s taking a while.) She has a whole bag of tricks that she can do; eager to please, she can sit, down, stand, roll-over, speak, paw, high five, stay, wait, and kisses. She’s learned not to be quite so busy on a car ride. I began taking her to Doggie Day Care (DDC) a couple of months ago, one day a week. Mostly for the exercise that I am unable to give her while I work, it tires her out and makes her more mellow and able to focus when we have a training class at night. But she also has a chance to socialize with the other doggies and they tell me she has a few regular best friends.

Denali got an invite to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving. Originally, I was just going to take her to the kennel at the same place as DDC. She’d be there for a few days, able to run and play, rather than being crated at home if I had a pet sitter come in to take care of her. But my mother wanted to meet her Grand-dog-ter and asked my brother if Denali could come. My brother is unmarried, has no kids or pets, and has a very nice home. I wasn’t about to impose my puppy on his property. But, my mom and his girlfriend, Kristen worked on Denali’s behalf. And after answering a list of questions about what to expect and how my puppy would behave, my brother relented and allowed Denali to come with us on our trip. I believe my brother enjoyed having the puppy visit.

I purchased a portable crate so that she would have a safe place to stay at night and when we went out. I took plenty of toys and chewies that would keep Denali occupied. My brother has a fenced back yard, so probably one of Denali’s favorite things was to run free of a leash in the back yard, chasing a ball. One of my favorite things was taking her for walks at night, where the streets were wide and lined with streetlights. I think my brother’s favorite thing was playing “steps” with her. He’d open the door to the basement stairway; there are about 12 steps straight down, then the staircase turns for a final few steps to the finished basement. My brother would go to the bottom of the steps while I had Denali “wait” at the top with me. My brother would then call for Denali to “come” and she’d head down. Now, to picture this, she didn’t just walk down the steps. It was more like flying. She’d hit about three steps on the way down, make the super-quick turn at the bottom and fly some more toward my brother. I stayed at the top of the steps to call her back up, so I don’t know what all happened in the basement (maybe he ran around and she chased him?) When I called for Denali, she would come racing up the stairs and sit by my side. My brother would pop his head around the corner in the basement and call her back down. Again, three steps, quick turn and around the basement. I call her back up. And Repeat! And Repeat! And Repeat! It was great fun for all of us! At some point, she added a bark as she went down. A bark for each time she touched a step. Three barks down and chase around the basement. You could tell when she was getting tired; on her way back up the steps, she was slowing down. At some point, she was having so much fun, I think she forgot that it was a “fun” game and she began to work. My brother said that as they made the rounds of the basement, he believes she began herding him. Jumping up to nip at his elbow.

Unfortunately, Denali got very comfortable with her freedom in my brother’s house. We had arrived on a Wednesday evening. My brother and his girlfriend puppy-sat while we went to have dinner with Doug’s family. Sometime on Thursday, my brother noticed a small yellow discoloration on his light-colored carpet in the formal living room. None of us saw it happen. And when I went to clean it up, it was cold. So it had been quite a while since she had christened my brother’s home. I apologized for my puppy’s misbehavior and my brother responded, “It’s OK.” Also, unfortunately, this would not be the only time she would pee in his home. On a simple trip to the basement to help my brother set up a game system for Ian, Denali felt like his basement also needed Christening. Ian caught her this time and fussed at her. I cleaned that up also and apologized to my brother. His response, “It’s OK.” I felt like such a heel.

So, last week, the weather was threatening to be a little messy. I made the decision not to take Denali to DDC. I chose, instead to play my own version of “Steps” with her, by myself. I took her favorite ball, a huge, fuzzy soccer ball with one tiny squeaker in it, upstairs and had her follow me up. I teased her with the ball and threw it down the stairs. “Go get it!” “Bring it here!” She did. So, I threw it down the stairs again. This time, it dropped out of her mouth on her way up the stairs and the ball rolled down. She stopped mid-stairs, and turned around to go after it. But something caught her nose and she decided to go investigate. Into the Living Room she went, out of my sight. I called for her and she did not appear. So I tore down the steps to see what made her so curious. Twice before, she’s done this… gone around the corner, out of my sight and peed in my Living room. So I was worried she was doing the same. But when I got to the bottom of the stairs and rounded the corner, she was just sniffing the objects in the Living room, no big deal. I grabbed her ball, showed it to her and had her follow me back up the stairs. I threw it down and she went tearing down after the ball, but again, she disappeared around the corner into the Living room. I called for her and she did not come. So, I went tearing back down the stairs and found her investigating some philodendron. I simply told her that the plants were not for her, tried to engage her in playing with the ball again, headed for the stair and turned to see if she was following me. She looked up at me and squatted, right in the middle of the room. “No! That’s a Naughty Dog!” I grabbed her by the scruff and directed her to the kitchen. I had her get in her kennel so I could go and clean up the puddle. She spent the rest of the evening in the kitchen; playtime had been cut short. She looked at me with ears back and head held submissively. When I went to take her out, she started to head off ahead of me then stopped short, knowing that *I* was “alpha dog” and she needed to wait for my direction/permission. I thought I’d made significant progress with the housebreaking.

So, the next evening, I allowed her to come into the den to lie on her “place” (a fleecy dog bed) and spend some quality time warming my feet. Typically, if she hasn’t had an adequate amount of exercise that day, she tends to get “busy” and has a hard time settling down to be content in her “place.” She’ll get up to try to investigate some kitty toys, or even go find a kitty. She’ll toss her ball or bone a few feet away from her “place” so that she needs to get up and go fetch it back. This day was no different. It had been raining pretty hard all day, so we didn’t get much outside exercise. And as expected, she was again busy this evening. When I took her out, she did her business, but not pee. Typically, she gets all her business done quickly. I told her to “hurry up! Go pee-pees!” Nothing. It was still raining pretty hard and I asked her again, “Hurry up!” Nothing. So I brought her back into the garage, dried her with a towel and headed inside. That’s when I noticed it; the tell-tale, slightly yellow, darker circle of carpet in my den. How I didn’t see it on my way out the door with her, I don’t know. But obviously she didn’t need to pee outside, because she’d already gone, inside! What do to?

I hate it… feeling like a failure at this. I take her out she goes quickly and on command. I thought she understood. But I guess she hasn’t quite made that connection yet between what is “outside – good” and “inside – bad.” I also hate not trusting her. And I also hate having to leave her in the kitchen when she could be joining us in the den, or following me around the house as I head upstairs, or hanging out with me in the bathroom when I take a shower and get ready. She knows the normal routine in the mornings and knows that when I head upstairs, she usually gets to go with me. Telling her, “no, you have to stay here,” and watching her head cock sideways is about to break my heart.