Confessions of an Un-Runner

Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Bio: Who is the Un-Runner?

The daughter of a country preacher and a strong-minded woman, the Un-Runner was raised to fit in, to do what she was told, and to NEVER make waves. She excelled at it - but she's better now!

Cyndi Paxton Johnson balances family, friends, fitness, homeschooling, writing and a family business with humor and tears. She's been published in Donne Tempo, The Washington Times, and Cecil County Magazine, among others.

Back-to-School: Homeschool Edition

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Everyone’s in that back-to-school frenzy. The stores are packed with supplies and the blogs are packed with salivating mothers anxiously awaiting the arrival of that big yellow school bus.

I can understand that. I’m feeling pretty much done with ennui of summertime, myself. Not my inactivity, mind you – I’ve been working my butt off – giving my children the unstructured freedom to create, to play, to grow.

Or at least….that’s what I’ve kept telling myself.

In reality, my kids are bored witless. Without the structure of schoolwork and other educational pursuits they’ve fallen into their favorite pastime – whining and picking on each other until Mom & Dad’s ears bleed.  We haven’t experienced this before – we usually continue learning year round – just in bits and drabs. This summer….not so much.  Except for a few “you’ve GOT to do at least ONE subject today” days we’ve been totally school-less.

And they’re driving me out of my ever-loving mind. I’ve got kids glued to my butt 24/7. I’ve been spending inordinately long times in the bathroom – just for some alone time.  I miss the good old days when everyone went to bed at 8pm – without me. Now that we’ve entered the tween years it’s like peeling off another layer of skin to accomplish night-time separation. What’s with that????

From Beast to Beauty: Adventures in Dog Training

black labGood Dogs aren't born - they're Trained!

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

with special thanks to Dan Salb of Dan's Elite Dog Training

In April we adopted a young black lab that had been rescued from a kill shelter in Georgia. Instantly our somewhat chaotic household was immersed in constant insanity - the dogs fought, the cats hissed, the children screamed, and the young male dog was a force in motion - constantly chewing, jumping, biting, destroying, etc. Even our animal-crazed children begged us to get rid of him. He was, quite frankly, the canine spawn from hell.

In desperation I emailed several dog training groups around the Mid Shore. I've trained dogs before, but had never encountered a Beast such as this. I was concerned about joining a "rewards only" dog training class. Even with smaller, calmer dogs I've always had the best results from a combination of rewards and a properly used choke chain collar. But nothing in my past prepared me for this unmanageable, wild beast. We had just about admitted defeat and were prepared to return him when I spoke with Dan Salb from Dan's Elite Dog Training in Easton.  Dan was confident that our Beast could be trained - and guaranteed that, if we followed his program, our dog would be OFF-LEASH reliable at the end of the 10 week training program.  He sounded so confident that I instantly felt better - the feelings of hopelessness and defeat were GONE.  We had a plan!

I was very encouraged following our first class - I could already see a difference with his behavior outside, on leash. Unfortunately that didn't address his MULTITUDE of problems indoors. I was told to keep him crated unless I could devote my time to him, and to return him to the crate if he became unmanageable.  He spent a LOT of time in that crate. (and yes, I felt guilty about that!)

What Constitutes a "Miracle Cure"?

chiropractic chartby Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I'm a cynic - ask anyone. You have to prove everything to me - I don't blindly accept anyone's words. Health care is no different. I've left mainstream medicine since having children and dabbled with alternative medicines.

I use a few homeopathic remedies - with good results. I've treated illnesses with herbs, including my husband's kidney stones - without hesitation. I eschew the beta blockers the cardiologist recommended and instead treat my heart arthymia with fish oil and coenzyme Q10 - with excellent results. We've occasionally sought chiropractic care for injuries - and been satisfied with the outcome. And yet...I've never experienced a so-called miracle cure that made my mouth drop open.

Until now.

There's a Light at the End of the Tunnel...

Lord I hope it ain't no train! B.B. Watson

Subtitle: More Adventures in Dog Training
The hyperactive lab puppy and I just completed our sixth week of dog training with Dan Salb of
http://danselitedogtraining.com/home.html[_new]Dan's Elite Dog Training. I'm thrilled to report that we BOTH passed our first test - which involved Gryffindor responding to my commands, including a complicated heeling workout, while attached to the leather leash by only a thin piece of string. (if the string breaks - you fail).

I've been frustrated to tears as I've worked to turn this unmanageable beast into a well-behaved dog. The other dogs immediately turned into model companions - but mine required more strength, perseverance and patience than I had ever imagined. I was having fantasies about shock collars, cattle prods - whatever would break the beast from his painful jumping, chewing and wildness. Dan talked me down each time, telling me to stick with the training method and have faith. He even worked extra with me, since I was having SO much trouble. It turns out I wasn't quite doing the turns and corrections right - close - but no Kewpie doll. Once I learned the correct way - I saw immediate improvement. (which explains how we managed to pass our test!)

The Beast Within

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson
I met a delightful older man yesterday, sitting with his equally delightful Pembroke Welsh Corgi. The Corgi wasn't that interested in us - she was content to sit by her master's feet, eying him adoringly. The man chatted about the many attributes of his dog - her obedience, her dedication to him, her calm demeanor.

I mentioned that I was currently going through dog training classes with my less than calm lab pup. He acknowledged that he had indeed taken his lady to puppy kindergarten once - "but she really didn't need it - she just always behaves." In that infinitesimal moment I hated that kind, charming gentleman.

And his little dog, too.

The Study Ball - and Chain!

Attention, frustrated parents!
Are you tired of trying to get your children to study?

Introducing "Study Ball, the gadget for students
It’s the ideal gadget for students who have trouble concentrating. This prison-style ball and chain with built-in timer will help them study."

Now you can attach the 21 pound ball to your student's ankle and program the manacle to release when study time is up - no more than four hours. [Parent's have a release key]

According to
http://www.curiosite.com[_new]www.curiosite.com the ball is also helpful for adults who have trouble concentrating - and should not be used by children without adult supervision. [you think?] The item is made of steel, runs on three batteries, and costs $115.

Taming the Beast

Our Beast of DestructionOur Beast of DestructionThere's nothing like adding a LARGE puppy to your home to make you question your sanity! I'm a DIY kind of gal, but admitted defeat and began a 10 week dog training class in Easton. I chose Dan's Elite Dog Training with professional trainer Dan Salb. The reason: Dan GUARANTEE'S your dog will be reliable for recall, sit-stay, down-stay, stand and more - even OFF-LEASH!

The first class was humans only - we have to be trained before the dogs. We were impressed by a past graduate of the class, who stayed next to his "person" even though a motorcycle revved nearby and a squirrel caught his eye. We all wanted this dog!

The Slightly Insane Family Survival Guide – Part 1

The Beast

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson
Do you remember those old family sitcoms – immaculate homes, perfect gardens, everything running smoothly without any hint of chaos?

Well – that’s NOT me.

My home is filled with books and kids and animals and projects and dreams. It can look presentable with a little forethought – it never approaches perfect. But it houses two adults (who work at home), three elementary aged children (who are homeschooled), two small dogs, two cats, eight free-range hens and nine baby chicks.

And then, because my life was running too smoothly, I added a 5 month old black lab puppy. What was I thinking? Why didn’t I remember how much work a puppy entailed? Let alone a large puppy that uses my children as chew toys! My small dogs have become snarling beasts, the cats are terrified and the chickens have to be sequestered so the new dog won’t eat them.

Worm Farming 101

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Worm ComposterWorm ComposterI love the concept of worm farming - of letting the little slimy critters do their job - eat my garbage, and give me nutrient rich fertilizer! A few years ago I purchased a somewhat involved worm composting system and set it up in the garage. My mail order worms arrived - were set up in their dark home, and were sporadically fed my garbage. I was, perhaps, not the best example of a worm farmer - since I never recall actually using their compost on my garden and found out - too late - that the garage was a bit too cold for their winter survival.

Free Range Kids?

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson
Free Range ChickenFree Range ChickenAs parents we protect our children - it's our job. Are we keeping them so "safe" that they never get the opportunity to develop independence? I came across two writers today (thanks to Twitter) discussing "Free-Range Kids". Free-range is a hot topic these days, especially for chickens! Our chickens free-range in our fenced back-yard (and lay some awesome tasting eggs!)Yet the term also applies to chickens that receive a few minutes in a small outdoor cage, as well as the lucky chickens who range over 20 water front acres on my friend's farm.

Now let's consider "free-range kids". My kids play outside alone, on our property. This was a big thing when we moved to the Eastern Shore from Frederick, MD - my young children were NOT allowed out without me, even in the fenced backyard. (I couldn't see them from inside) Just last summer I let the older two (ages 9 & 10) ride their bikes to the beach when we visit Grandma. This is a private beach - but it was the first time I let them out of my sight. But I grew up free there, and wanted the same for my kids. [click "read more"]

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