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