Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Tale of Two Dogs

Way back in 2008, we (my husband) decided we needed a companion for our Boxer, Simon. Pacey was a toddler at the time and I recall one weekend we visited a breeder with a litter of pups. Naturally we experienced the temporary insanity caused by the adorableness of Boxer puppies and put a deposit down on the biggest, most energetic of the bunch. I came to my senses shortly thereafter, had a spectacular meltdown and we sheepishly collected our deposit and went on our way, sans puppy. Next up we thought maybe we'd rescue a dog in need of a home. I won't go into the details, but we ended up bringing a female Boxer home from the rescue that we had to return later the same day (trust me when I say it was about the worst rescue experience you could have that doesn't involve someone getting bitten). 

At that point I was more than ready to give up but Chris persevered and eventually we found Huff's original family on Craigslist, needing to re-home the 100 lb dog living in their apartment. We met him, it was a perfect fit, and he came home with us that day. Huff was...not the smartest dog we've ever met but he was the sweetest, gentlest big bear of a dog and just settled right in with us. He made the move with us to Minnesota, adapted to the snowy winters like a champ and took the eventual loss of his canine brother-from-another-mother in stride. He started to slow down, spending more and more time sleeping (and snoring and farting. My god, the snoring. My god, the farting). Then in February, he really started to decline. One of the hardest things about being a pet owner is being faced with end-of-life decisions. We are fortunate enough to have the option of allowing our pets to die peacefully and end suffering, but knowing when to take that step feels like a daunting prospect. As it turned out, there was no question at the end that he had no more days of life without suffering in him. The vet believes he had a tumor that ruptured and he was in a lot of pain. It was a terribly hard day, but we let him go feeling like it was time. The kids did remarkably well saying their goodbyes and grieving for him. 

While the house felt empty for a few days and we all missed Huff, I will be honest and say I adapted very rapidly to not having a pet in the house. Chris and the kids wanted to get another dog right away but I put my foot down and declared we would remain pet-free until the end of the summer. I did relent and say we could go through the initial steps of being vetted by the Boxer Rescue here in MN so that when we were ready we could go ahead. Chris checked the website every day and put the hard sell on various dogs that would come up for adoption, but it was actually really easy for me to refuse to even consider any of them. 

But then fate/life/social media intervened and a good friend I used to work with in California posted on Facebook that she needed to re-home their two-year-old Boxer. I knew that he'd have been raised well, she had small children and another dog, and basically it was the perfect scenario. It was totally up to me to pursue it...I could never have said anything and stuck to my line in the sand regarding the end of summer timeline. But I didn't. I contacted my friend, we arranged transportation, and on the 4th of July, Buddy arrived to join our family. 

He's only been here a week, but it feels like longer. He fits perfectly with us. He is the sweetest boy, past the truly awful puppy stage but still with plenty of vigor (and a few bad-ish habits that need correcting). We are certainly still in a transition period...the kids were used to a much more sedate animal in the house and Buddy is used to playing enthusiastically so they - and he - are adapting. But we are so happy he's here. I am enjoying him far more than I expected to and it feels right hearing the click, click, click of doggy toenails on the floors. My friend and her family are thrilled that Buddy came to live with someone they know (they are moving out of the country which is the only reason they needed to re-home him), and I am thrilled that we were able to adopt a dog without dealing with the uncertainties of an animal with an unknown background. Win, win, win, and proof that there is good to be found amongst the horrible displays of humanity made possible by the internet. Stay connected to people, and you just might get a Buddy. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

18 Things

I've done a pretty terrible job so far of documenting Archer's babyhood on this blog. I am posting a picture a day over on Instagram for #project365 (my username is akladyj in case you're not already following and would like to) so I am getting something captured but a post about my youngest is well overdue. He's 18 months old now (!!!!) so here's a list of 18 things about him:

1. He is, without a doubt, the happiest and most good-natured kid I've ever met.

2. After 11 months of not-great sleeping he now sleeps 11 or so hours at night and takes a 2-3 hour nap.

3. His words/approximations include: mom (he prefers Ma, though), dad, hat, ball, up, dog, trash, yuck, uh-oh, snack, truck, more and poop.

4. He has an epic sweet tooth. He's had way more treats than the other two had had at his age and he is definitely my candy kid.

5. He is still attached to his blankies, but still doesn't prefer one over the other (there are three of the same blankie with slightly different patterns on them). I highly recommend trying to attach your baby to a lovey of which you have multiples. He refers to it as his "ahhhhh," pronounced like the sound you might make after a long drink on a hot day. So far he does not demand to drag it everywhere with us for which I am very grateful.

6. Unlike either of his siblings at this age, he loves citrus fruit. He is also my only child to like black olives. His favorite food, no contest, is spaghetti.

7. He is starting to love books, thanks largely to our weekly storytime at the library. Reading to very small kids is not one of my strengths so I'm happy to have found a structured time to devote to it.

8. He no longer, as of yesterday, has any bottles. I was still giving him a bottle of milk at bedtime and naptime, purely for my own enjoyment. Switching over to sippies full time has been a complete non-event for him and I am forever grateful that none of my kids formed strong attachments to their bottles. I confess to being slightly sad that I can no longer cradle him with a bottle.

9. He has turned me into a huge smooshy softie. See #8.

10. He is firmly convinced that he ought to be permitted to do anything and everything the older two do. Don't try and tell him otherwise.

11. He is extremely observant. He knows where 75% of the dishes go from the dishwasher, will attempt to get the dog into his kennel when he sees me preparing to leave the house, knows which order I put detergents, etc into the washing machine, and will imitate the proper usage of anything from a hairbrush to a broom to a dustbuster.

12. He is obsessed with toothpaste and most days I catch him at least once wandering around with his finger in a tube of it, casually sampling as he goes.

13. He was hilariously terrified by some neon grow-a-dinosaur toys the big kids got in their stockings. Wouldn't get in the bathtub until I'd removed and hidden them all.

14. He has gotten ahold of a paint-saturated roller and done some of his own decorating not once but TWICE. Perhaps more my fault than his.

15. He is very attached to me and finally, just today, consented to stay in the care of other adults while I attended a meeting for an hour and a half. It was very nice to have a break and I'm glad he's growing more confident but as with (almost) everything with the last baby, it's bittersweet.

16. If you say "A is for..." he will point to himself. He can also identify eyes, ears, nose, mouth and head.

17. He loves music and dancing as much as his big brother and sister.

18. He is utterly adored by each and every one of us. He's usually the last to wake up on weekday mornings and we are all just a little bit happier when I bring him down to join the rest of us.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Other Side

The first time I remember really suspecting that something might be a little off in my brain was when I was living in England. We were newly-ish married, I was working a job I enjoyed and we had very few responsibilities. We were moving our way along the path to moving back to the US, had great friends and a cute house and really nothing to complain about. But I specifically recall a Saturday that Chris was playing rugby away and I'd opted not to go. I was walking back home from the library, had new books to read, the sun was shining and yet. I just didn't feel happy. I remember wondering WHY I didn't feel happy. I worried that I was somehow unable to be contented, that I wasn't properly grateful for all the good in my life.

I thought about this the other day because right now? I am so happy. I feel a level of contentment that I wasn't sure I'd ever achieve. I'm happy and satisfied being at home with Archer, with the efforts I make on a daily basis to nurture and help my kids grow and to be a good counterbalance for Chris. There are multiple times every week that I feel close to euphoric with the sense that weights have lifted, that I have settled into a groove that feels good and right. I don't feel like good emotions are muted they way they have been in the past.

It's so easy to come and spill out across a page when things are bad; writing about hard things is therapeutic for me. But part of what I want this blog to be is a piece of my and our history for my kids to look back at and maybe one day help them in some way. So I'm reminding myself that it's important to document the good, too. I do not cherish every single moment of every single day of this life I'm currently living, but I want to make an effort to balance it out a little more.

So. I'm happy. Very, very happy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Feeding My Family

I'd like to start this post by outlining each of the dietary preferences/needs represented by the five people in my family:

- Vegetarian: 1.5 people
- Omnivore: 2 people
- Prefer lots of vegetables: 2 people
- Prefer no vegetables ever: 1.5 people
- Low-carb/low-cal needs: 1 person
- Carb-loving: 4 people
- Ideally need to eat by 5:30 pm: 3 people
- Schedule varies by day so mealtime never the same: 1 person
- Extremely picky: 2-3 people, depending on the day
- Eat spaghetti (with or without meatballs) with no complaints: 5 people

It's so not easy to feed this family. I personally am a very picky eater. I choose and prefer a lot of healthy food, but I like what I like and I don't prefer trying a lot of new things. I've been this way since I was a kid and although I have expanded my palate quite a lot since then, I still don't eat meat (or really most animal proteins) and have a decent list of other foods I simply can't choke down (goat cheese, eggplant and squash/sweet potatoes/yams are all on this list).

Because I am a particular eater I have found it very difficult to lay ground rules with my kids and encourage them to try new things. Pacey is a great eater and has been for a couple of years now. Brighton is very, very picky and while she does like a fair number of healthy things she does not like any vegetables and almost no meat. Archer is about average for a toddler thus far, but I know it can go either way from here. The way I provide food is generally to make an evening meal I know the kids will all eat (in some deconstructed form) and then make something different for Chris and I. Often that something is different for each of us, in that we have radically different needs and preferences. It's a lot of work, it's hard to plan and I don't really know how to change it.

I know perfectly well that the kids won't starve if I serve them a meal the adults want to eat and they choose not to eat it. However I also know that that approach didn't work for me growing up. If I didn't like it I didn't eat it and while of course I didn't starve, I was hungry a lot. Eventually I discovered I liked cooking and in my family whoever cooked got to choose the meal. That solved things a few nights a week and then I left home, my palate matured and I got to choose what I ate all the time. Food and eating is just not a battle I'm willing to fight. If I make a meal I know the kids like and they choose not to eat it, I don't provide alternatives. We don't do dessert as a reward all the time, although I will sometimes require a taste of the vegetable before getting dessert if there is one.

There's no point to writing this here except to say that meal-planning and preparation is a drag at the best of times and we're not in a great pattern here. I checked out Ellyn Sattern's book "How to Get Your Kids to Eat, But Not Too Much" and I will peruse it to see if her methods resonate. I'm dragging my heels, though, since I'm just not sure I have it in me to take a hard line on this.

What say you? How do you feed your families? Do your kids have different eating preferences despite being raised with the same approach?

Friday, January 2, 2015


No resolutions, just a list of things to inspire/remind me

To Read

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk
Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen
Food: A Love Story

To Watch

The Wire
Downton Abbey
Seasons 2 - current of Homeland
Fed Up

To Try

A random act of kindness per month
Project 365
Blog more regularly
Donating blood quarterly
Following a daily/weekly/monthly housekeeping plan


Master a homemade tomato soup recipe I like
Find three more meals the whole family can eat and enjoy together
Bake fresh bread once a week
Feed myself properly
Try a new vegetable recipe per week

Actual To-Do List

Redecorate my bedroom
Find a new primary care doctor (haaaaaaate my current one)
Make some headway in resolving knee issues
Create a space in the house that is solely mine. Realistically, this might be a shelf somewhere but I need something that is not disturbed by any other member of the family.
Find a strength training program I can fit into my day and stick to it

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

Another year gone, so many things I never got around to blogging about. Hopefully this questionnaire will help me encapsulate at least a little bit of life this year.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?

Watched two of my kids learn how to read. It's been amazing and gratifying to see, and so interesting to observe their different learning styles and strategies. As a voracious reader I am just so happy they are gaining this skill and I hope to really foster their love of books going forward.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions and will you make more this year?

Well, it looks like I did have some goals, let's see how I did:

More books and games, less screen time. I actually did pretty well with this. Screen time naturally limited itself with the kids in school all day, and a broken iPad screen allowed us a chance to detox while it was being repaired. I see a huge difference in behavior, specifically in my oldest, when screens are limited so it was easier to take a firmer line. I also eradicated watching shows while eating except on very special occasions. I feel good about that.

More physical activity.  Hmm, I don't think I hit this one as intended. The kids are really active in general and we are not a sedentary family but I also didn't get us all outdoors as much as I wanted. It was a bit hard with Archer this past summer but we did get to the beach a few times which was not something I even dreamed I'd tackle on my own with the three kiddos. I will give us a few points for discovering the trail that runs between our house and Excelsior. We did many weekend family walks that end up being six miles in total so that's a win for sure. Next summer we will work on figuring out how the kids can be more active vs. riding in the jogger.

More meals eaten together, less short-order cooking. I made some progress here. Still plenty of work to do but I feel good about having found a few meals we can all eat together and taking a slightly firmer line on providing alternatives. Will keep working on this again in 2015.

Less yelling, more teaching. I'm going to give myself an A on this one. Getting more sleep and addressing the state of my own mental health allowed me to be a much calmer and patient mother.

Laugh, laugh, laugh some more. Stop taking life so seriously. Eh, not sure how to grade this one. Bottom line is that I'm a serious person. I'm not lighthearted and, while I strive to be more positive than negative, laughter is not my go-to coping mechanism. I'm trying though, and my husband continues to be a counterbalance for me in this regard.

I do have some things I'd like to focus on this year, which I'll write in another post.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Several cousins and a few good friends. Enough newborns to confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not like anymore of my own :)

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, my grandfather, John passed away.

5. What countries did you visit?

Haha. Chris and I did get a two-night getaway though, which was a much needed break and greatly appreciated. Thanks to Nana and Papa for holding down the fort while we were away.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you didn't have in 2014:

Some ideas about what I might like to do in the next few years as my child-rearing duties change and my time can be a little more flexible. We need a new 5-Year Plan.

7. What dates from 2014 will be etched upon your memory and why?

I don't think this was a year of specific dates, more of a transition from a lot of chaos to something much more stable and comfortable. Plenty of good days, some bad ones, lots to be proud of and practically nothing to regret.

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?

Taking control of my mental health. I have learned a huge amount about how to keep myself feeling good and I hope to stay in this good place for a long time. I made a medication change in May after a challenging couple of months and it, once again, allowed me the breathing room to figure out the other ways I need to manage things. I understand my own brain a lot better and while I'm still not the best at self-care, I am improving. I have discovered a few specific triggers (like alcohol, WEEP) and mostly eliminating them has made a world of difference for me.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Not as such but I am struggling with a frustrating inflammatory problem with my knees that is preventing me from exercising the way I'd like to. As in, at all. An orthopedic consult was a bust (although it reconfirmed for me that having a joint drained is the most painful thing I've experienced) so I'm onto a rheumatologist later in January. I'd REALLY like to get some answers.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

Well I didn't buy it but Chris bought us a dual-control electric mattress pad and it has been a game-changer in the winter. Other than that, the babysitting hours I purchased were truly worth every penny.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

You know, I think I'll call out my husband on this one. He's had some work-related challenges to deal with and he has really stepped up to work on coping strategies and prioritizing work-life balance in the midst of it. I have also been impressed and so appreciative of the strides he made in being a dad this year. He really is one of the best I know and the only one I'd want for my kids.

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Many, many Americans' behavior this year could be described exactly this way. Sometimes I genuinely wonder if we shouldn't be making a plan to get the heck out of dodge.

13. What did you get really, really excited about? 

Planning a girls' trip in 2015. Eventually getting our home warranty to cover the bulk of the cost of our new furnace (officially old now). Getting rid of the pink paint in our home office.

14. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Writing here and reading books.

15. What do you wish you'd done less of? 

Allowing myself to get distracted from the present by the internet and social media. That, and laundry.

16. How did you spend Christmas?

Here, just the five of us. It was lovely.

17. What was your favorite TV show?

Lots of goodies this year. I enjoyed House of Cards, The Killing, The Americans and am now getting into Last Tango in Halifax.

18. What was the best thing you learned?

How to listen to podcasts. I have discovered that while I am easily "talked out" when my response is required, I generally don't tire of being a straight listener. I'm still looking for recommendations now that Serial is over and I'm almost through the archives of Radio Cherry Bombe. Household chores are so much more enjoyable when I'm listening to something interesting.

19. What was the best thing you read?

Here is where I wish I had been more diligent with Goodreads. I know I read some good books this year but I can't think of them. I know I really enjoyed The Rosie Project.

20. What was your greatest food discovery?

Probably loose tea. A friend of mine started brewing it and it has inspired to me to look beyond tea bags. A good hobby for the winter for sure.

21. What did you want and get?

 A redecorated and usable office with dedicated work space. It took several long evenings with a paint roller but the results are so worth it and we are inspired to keep going.

22. What did you want and not get?

A new winter coat. Totally my fault. It's hard to think about winter before you're in it and once you're in it you just want to focus on it being over.

23. What was your favorite film of 2014?

Favorite one I watched this year was About Time. Or maybe Wild. That was so good.

24. What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?

I turned 34 and I really don't remember what I did. It maybe involved an ice cream cake? And friends?

25. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Honestly, nothing. Well, maybe more preschool hours for Brighton this spring. That was a looonnng five months.

26. What kept you sane?

Sleep. Definitely getting adequate sleep.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

I am naturally one to fall all over myself preventing others from feeling bad about things yet equally committed to feeling guilty myself. I need to be kinder to myself. Being a martyr is neither personally satisfying nor productive nor conducive to good relationships.

28. Show us one of your favorite photos from the year.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Today my little Peanut is eight. I can hardly believe it...sometimes it feels like I blinked and here we are. Other times, of course, it feels like several lifetimes have passed since he was born and completely turned the world upside down for us.

Chris can't be here today (he's on a business trip) but my mom is here celebrating with us. She was there eight years ago too, about 18 hours after Pacey was born unexpectedly. Not too bad considering she had to get from Alaska to Southern California. She was able to hold Pacey just briefly before she had to go and I will always be grateful that she was able to drop everything and come be with us during that crazy time.

I went to Pacey's classroom to read a book to him and his second grade friends today. I can't help but come away from every single trip to see him at school feeling incredibly grateful for him and the community we have around him. He is loved, he is accepted and he is appreciated for who he is.

Pacey Graham Harris, you are loved far and wide and you have such a gift for making everyone's day a little brighter. Happy birthday.