Meanwhile, we are going to be working on a great book for families this summer, "The Young Peacemaker" by Corlette Sande. It's about resolving family conflicts, and I'm really, really hoping it's as good as everyone says it is — because we could really use it.
Now, back to the animals. Here's where it all came together for me. The kittens are basically "plug and play," but the dog is different. I've never owned one before, but I've been promising a dog to the kids for about five years, so it was time. Anyway, I'm learning that with a dog, one has to be a "pack leader" right from the start. (I've become a devotee of "The Dog Whisperer" by Cesar Millan.) When a dog trusts and follows his leader, it seems most everything else falls into place.
So my ultimate summer plan is just that. I think the "contracts" are a great start. But the big picture is that I simply need to do a better job this summer of establishing myself — re-establishing myself — as my children's pack leader! For all our sakes.