A lot has changed in the past year…

1 Aug

And a lot has stayed the same. But let’s get to the changes, shall we? Remember that last post, about our new puppies? Well, we had them about six months, and they were so sweet! But I was pregnant (I’ll get to that in a sec), and our house is small, and they were huge, and they insisted on peeing on the floor…and at 8 months pregnant I about lost my mind. So the puppies had to go. It was sad, but I can’t tell you how relieved I was. It’s just one of those hard things.

So on to that pregnancy thing…after having three boys, and totally enjoying being a boy mom, we were blessed with a baby girl. I was both thrilled and worried. What would I do with a girl? I’ve been in “boy” mindset for 11 years! The first time I walked through the girls’ section at Target, after finding out I was having a girl, I seriously felt weird, like people were looking at me, thinking “why is she over there? She only has boys!!” Seriously. I really thought that. Of course, I’ve completely enjoyed dressing her up in dresses and bows and decorating a little girl room. But it’s easy at this age. The hard part comes when they’re older and I have to deal with all the emotions and the friend drama, etc., etc.

But really, she’s been a wonderful baby–laid back and easy going, sweet, happy, loving. We are enjoying her.

On the dog front, we now have one very well-behaved dog, Claire. She’s a black lab/pointer mix. All black except for a patch of spotted white on her chest. We got her on Valentine’s Day from a great couple who both worked full time and weren’t able to give her the attention she needed. Well, she gets tons of attention now. But she loves it. And we love her.

So sorry for such a lame catch-up post. On to my random, sparse posting!!

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My heart was both broken, and expanded, today

6 Apr

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We’ve had Dietrich the dachshund for 11 years now. We got him our first Christmas together, just over a month after our wedding. He was a gift from John’s family He was 11 weeks old, and just about the cutest puppy I’d ever seen. He was tiny and had a little belly that just about dragged the floor. He got in the bed with us that night, he burrowed under the covers and we worried he would suffocate. He was fine. Come to find out, dachshunds love to burrow. Over the next few years he proved himself to be as stubborn as any dachshund ever was, but also as sweet and loyal and funny as well. But he suffered from asthma and frequent ear infections, and the medications required to treat them took their toll on his overall health.

Six years later, I was looking at Petfinder, hoping to find a buddy for Dietrich. At the Arlington animal shelter was a portly black and tan dachshund with a sweet face. Fred came to live with us that day. Dietrich wasn’t sure he wanted a buddy, but Fred didn’t give him a choice. He snuggled right up to Dietrich and a sweet friendship was born.

One year after that, after losing a precious German Shorthaired Pointer we’d had for less than a year (a rescue as well), we still wanted a big dog around the house. We went to the Humane Society to look at a chocolate lab. He was HUGE. But around on the next row of cages was Zeus, a 7 year-old Weimaraner with horrible teeth and separation anxiety (pretty much a Weim trait). We had fallen for his sweet demeanor though. He came home with us too. He became my shadow, whether I wanted him to be or not. Though so anxious, he was so sweet and loved nothing more than to sit on my lap. Yes, on it.

So for the last four years, we’ve had these three boys together. They have made us laugh so many times, given us comfort and love and kisses when we needed it, and warmed us in the bed for those winters (and made us excessively hot in the summers…but I wouldn’t kick them out–they were too sweet and snuggly).

But they got old. It seemed to happen overnight. Dietrich had another asthma spell and had to go on a round of steroids. The vet thought it might be helpful to keep him on a very low maintenance dose. Unfortunately, it lowered his immunity and he ended up with an awful ear infection and skin infection that almost killed him. We nursed him back to health the best we could, fearing he wouldn’t recover. He did, at least somewhat. But we knew that when he had another asthma spell, he couldn’t handlebars steroids. It would be “time.”

Fred was already portly, but just became obese. Morbidly. He didn’t even eat excessively, because we monitored his intake. He just seemed to put on weight anyway. He got to where he could hardly get up from lying down, and struggled to breathe sometimes after very little exertion.

Zeus’s teeth got worse, and many of the ones he had left fell out. He would scratch and bark at his gums at night. It was so pitiful. He had to go out much more frequently. He was declining, just like his brothers.

Yesterday, Dietrich was struggling to breathe, coughing a much as not. It made me so sad to see him suffering. And we knew that the others were not doing well either. We knew that today was the day. My mom came over and took pictures of each of us with the dogs, and we cried some.

This afternoon, John and I loaded up our three old guys into the van, took them by my mom and dad’s (where the kids were dyeing eggs) for the boys to say bye (we’d been out most of the day), then headed to the vet’s, where they were already waiting for us. They kept a room open for us so we could go straight in. That was so helpful, as I was already in tears. They were so kind. I left John to pay and rushed to the van to cry in private.

I knew it was the best thing for them. But it was so hard. There’s a big hole in my heart tonight.

There’s some good news, though, some honey for my wounded heart. We also got two puppies today (the plan was just to get a girl, their sister, but we couldn’t find her. We brought Alice out but realized she’d be much happier with her brother…so we came home with two!). Alice and MacGyver (guess who picked out which name…) are probably a Great Pyrenees/spaniel (I think English Springer Spaniel) mix. They are just so adorable. They are fluffy and soft and oh-so-sweet. Mac is 25 pounds at 9 weeks. His sister is more like 30. That girl has some BIG paws! The boys are so excited about their new babies. It’s helping them a lot. And me too. I’ve still cried tons of tears today, but having a sweet puppy beside you seems to dull the pain a little.

Having a pet is just one of those risks you take with your heart. You know there will be some (or a lot) of pain, but it’s all worth it for that love and companionship. I wouldn’t raise my kids any other way.

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Seeking a little simplicity

28 Feb

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Had a nice little time on our back deck with my little sweetie this afternoon. We snuggled under a blanket and felt the breeze on our faces. It was mostly cloudy (my fave) but the sun broke through occasionally to give a nice, soft glow to the yard.

He wanted to get some books and read, which we love to do, but I thought might be nice to just sit and be quiet. We listened to many different bird songs. We watched our cardinal family (they have been in our yard for at least five years) fly back and forth, letting out their “chit chit chits.” The doves shared their coos and mourning songs. A little sparrow nibbled on seed in one of our feeders.

We just get so busy doing and doing and doing. When I actually stop and listen and watch, I’m overwhelmed by the peace of simplicity.

We are working on simplifying our house. Even though we have purged so much over the last few years, I am amazed at what it still left! So we whittle down even more. And with every box and pile of things that leave our house, so does stress and anxiety.

In our modern society, I think true, completely simplicity is near impossible. And certainly pretty impractical. But I know there are places in our lives that we have allowed to become so cluttered, and when we clear those spaces, whether tangible or intangible, there is so much relief to be gained.

I bet you’re wondering about me and Dr. Pepper…

7 Jan

And we are still in a committed relationship. I’ve just decided there are more important things in life than obsessing over what I can or can’t have. I eat pretty healthily other than the DP, so I’m going to leave it at that! I am trying to keep it to one a day or so, but if I drink more sometimes, not a biggie. I have other things to think about. Like how cold I am, though it’s 56° outside. Or that I need to do the dishes. Or that there is a huge pile of laundry. Or that Anna will read this post and point out sentence fragments. See? I have important things on my mind.

I have a 10 year old. o_0

31 Oct

My baby boy, the one who made me a mama (after 25 hours of labor), turned 10 today. I can hardly believe it. It’s frighteningly true how quick the time goes by. Those days that seem endless really do fly by and days turn into months turn into years. I am so thankful for the gift of being a mother. Yes, it’s completely exhausting and exasperating sometimes. But it really is a gift, and I find joy in it more than in any other thing.

To you moms of young toddlers, enjoy the little silly things they do, enjoy the thousand questions, enjoy that they almost always want to be right where you are, and enjoy any snuggles you can get. That will not last forever. Yes, the older ones still do those things occasionally, but, not often, though I try to savor it when it does.

Certainly, I am glad they don’t stay toddlers forever, even though they are adorable, because they are also so demanding. It’s nice that my older boys can do so much for themselves, and we can interact on a more mature level. I am looking forward to seeing my boys grow into young men, and enjoying their company in a different way. But there’s nothing like that toddler voice and face and sloppy kisses…

Back to home learning

13 Sep

So, we brought the boys back home this year, and I am pretty sure it’s for good. At least for this year, it is! I have so many things to say about why public (or private) school is wrong for my boys, and I don’t feel like I need to go into them all here. What I will say, however, is that it just sucked the love of learning out of them, and took something wonderful and turned it into something frustrating and exhausting and annoying. Thankfully, they were not too far gone, and they are coming back around.

It was not a difficult decision to bring them home. While other mothers breathe a sigh of relief when their kiddos head back to school, it was nothing of the sort for us. Every single morning was a battle to get one out of bed, and to get both dressed, eat their breakfast, and out the door without a huge shouting match. There were a few hours of peace and quiet at home with just me and Parker, and John when he wasn’t working or sleeping off a night shift, and those were nice. But then once school was out, it was an hour or two of getting Pierce to do his homework, and dealing with a grumpy, exhausted Will. It more than negated the peacefulness of the day while they were at school.

And, most of all, they were so unhappy. Now, Will had a wonderful teacher last year, and really enjoyed his class, because she made things fun, and enjoyed learning herself. It didn’t hurt that his cousin (they are 2 months apart, and are almost like twins) was in his class with him. :) But just the nature of teaching and learning and curriculum in public school is a beat-down. Third grade begins the all-out focus on standardized testing, and every day is based around learning how best to take and succeed at the test. EVERY DAY.

Seriously, I could say so, so much about all of this, but so many other people have said so much more eloquently than I could, so I won’t. We just know that our boys are where they need to be right now–at home.

And what are we doing “school”? Not much, and we like it that way! John works with them some on math, and has them copy down a Bible verse (a short one, to work on their handwriting). I do housework with them, and ride bikes with them, and sit outside while they ride down the street, or play basketball, or dig in the dirt, or swing Parker in his swing.  We go to the library often and pick out a wide variety of books. I am implementing a short devotion in the morning (seriously, 10 minutes or less). And that’s about it. Oh, and we do art stuff sometimes.

Will it always be just like this? I doubt it. But they needed some time to decompress, to get the bad taste out of their mouth of being forced to learn what some smarty-pants somewhere said was important and was necessary for them to “make it” in life. I doubt we will ever use a formal curriculum. We will read often to learn about our interests. We will go fun and thought-provoking places. We will visit with interesting people. We will explore nature. Sometimes we will just chill at home and watch tv and play games on the computer. But we will always be learning, in our time, in our way.

What prompted this post tonight was my realization that pretty much anything I know today did not come from my formal schooling, until college level. I have told people frequently that though I graduated summa cum laude from high school (a U.S. top 150 public high school), I honestly don’t know how I did, because I couldn’t really think of anything I took away from it. That’s not true. I learned about the Aryans (the original ones, who settled in India and intermarried with the Indians), and I learned about economics–as much as my brain could understand it (because we had a fun and unconventional teacher). I’m not exaggerating there. The things I know and use today, I learned myself, because I wanted to learn it. I was helped by people who mentored me, in a sense–people who were there to share their knowledge and help me further my understanding and answer questions. But mostly, the baking and gardening and cleaning and parenting and sewing and crafting and home repair, and whatever else I do on a day-to-day basis, I learned because I read, and I researched, and I asked questions, and I DID. I might as well give my kids the opportunity to have time to do that for themselves, instead of wasting so much of their day “learning” facts out-of-context of real life, then being too exhausted to spend their free time learning what they want to learn.

Just my thoughts here. Obviously my approach to home learning is different than many others’, and that’s ok! We all have to figure out what is best for our kids, and our families. The left-brained, organized, step-by-step learner/teacher would likely flounder in such an environment. Thankfully, in our family, we are more (or very!) right-brained, creative, whole-to-part (we don’t learn in steps, we just take what we need and figure it out) learners, and this kind of unschooling is working great for us, at least for now!

Do you like chocolate? And peanut butter? And yumminess? I thought you might.

28 May

I love sweets. Way, way more than I should. But anyway…I saw this recipe pinned on Pinterest (ummm…I am warning you–if you open this link, you will get sucked in, and will never want to leave its awesomeness) You can enjoy it without joining, but if you want to join–and you will–you will have to request an invitation to join, which could take months to receive. However, if you go onto their Facebook page, like them so you can post on their wall, and request an invite on there. I got one the same day. Awesomeness.

But I digress. Here is the original recipe to which I was referring. They look so yummy. But I had no peanut butter chips. I would’ve made it without them, and it still would’ve been yummy. But, my eldest is a sugar fiend, and literally sneaked out of his room in the middle of the night to snatch the bag of chocolate chips and finish them off. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. Oh, AND THERE WERE TWO BAGS. And they are both gone.

Soooo, I had to improvise. In my refrigerator was some chocolate cookie dough, so I scooped it into my mini muffin tin and baked the dough for about 10 minutes at 375°. I like my cookies really gooey, but I actually think these would’ve been better had they been cooked for about 2 more minutes. I let them cool for about 10 minutes, during which time the middles fell into a nice crevice, just waiting to be filled…

I then warmed 2 tablespoons of peanut butter in the microwave for about 10 seconds, and mixed it with 2-3 tablespoons of powdered sugar (I don’t measure very often). I heated it for 10 more seconds to soften it, then spread some on each cookie muffin, just enough to fill in the crevice on top. And then I ate them. Well, not all of them, because I made a dozen.

Enjoy!

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